What’s up, Microsoft?

Dear Microsoft:
Why are you pushing back the release date of the consumer version of Windows Vista, the new Windows operating system?  Just yesterday you were going to ship in 2006, in time for the Christmas holidays.  It’s only been like…years…since you released Windows XP.  Did you take on more than you could handle?  I never thought a company with about 50,000 employees generating over $1 billion in cash each month could bite off more than it could chew, but apparently you did, Microsoft, when you overpromised on the release date to manufacturers. Your decision will impact hundreds of manufacturers and retailers who were counting on selling Vista as a Christmas goodie.  Who wants a late Christmas present delivered in January?  At least you’re still going to release the corporate version before the end of the year.  Is it really going to be worth the wait?  I’m perfectly happy using Windows XP, and I’m not sure I’m ready to pony up money to upgrade.  I’m not alone.
Well, there’s always Windows Live.  Maybe the next Windows version released in about 2015 will be completely online.
  1. Wade

    I have to admit that I am somewhat surprised with your stance on Microsoft’s decision.  If you think that Microsoft came to the decision of delaying the consumer launch of Vista two months lightly, then you are greatly mistaken.  By delaying the release until January they are leaving a lot of money on the table ($500 million), which is something they don’t like to do.  Why is Microsoft doing this, it is for the sake of quality.  The quality standards that Vista is being held to is significantly higher than the XP or Win2k3 releases.  I thought you might be have been proud of the company, when Jim Allchin in interviews after the announcement that he hoped people would respect the Microsoft for making the "tough decision".  Sure Microsoft could have decided to go ahead with the release of Vista in Holiday 2006, even though some partners wouldn’t be ready, and the quality wouldn’t quite be where they want it.  To make "Holiday 2006", Vista would have to "Release To Manufacturing" (RTM) in August, this should give you an idea of how close the product is to being done.  Windows Vista is "Code Complete"/"Feature Complete", meaning there are no new features being added, and it is 100% about quality from this point forward, and that isn’t saying quality wasn’t a priority all a long, as it has been a priority.
    The August 2006 RTM was set in 2004, when the project was basically "restarted" because of quality issues.  Recently Microsoft has been saying, "The project is not date driven… It is quality driven… But we would really want to make Holiday 2006… But we won’t ship it then if it isn’t ready…"  I think they deserve a little respect for saying "You know… We want to take a little bit more time to make sure we have it just the way we want it…" instead of sending something to manufacturing in August that they are not entirely happy with and something that customers wouldn’t be happy with.  I think it is better to take a little extra time, and deliver something that will make the customers happy, as if the customers are happy they will forget about a two month slip on a date that was set just over a year and a half ago.  I don’t see you criticizing Sony for the 4 month slip on the release of the Playstation 3, which was set for Spring 2006 in Japan, and now "Fall 2006" in Japan, and will attempt what Microsoft tried with the XBox 360, a global launch of a system that has considerably more customized pieces of hardware than the XBox 360.
    You also make it seem that all 50,000 Microsoft employees work on Windows, and that any of those 50,000 employees could be easily moved to work on Windows or Office, which is far from the truth.  Developing an Operating System is not easy and simple, it is quite complicated.  You also make it sound like all 50,000 employees work on Windows, which is far from the truth, where the number is more like 1/10th of that. 
    I think Microsoft learned some lessons from the Windows XP and even the Server 2003 releases, and believe they have taken appropriate actions based on those lessons.  "XP SP2" was more an OS release than it was a "Service Pack" as there were signicant changes (mostly security releated) and new features (mostly security related) delivered in it, and XP SP2 did not help development efforts on Vista.  I believe the componentization of Windows (the way Vista is built, installed, and serviced) will lay the ground work for Microsoft to be more agile and flexible when it comes to future releases of Windows, and allow Enterprises to lower their cost of ownership.  When was the last time you heard of a major virus/worm attack against Windows XP or Server 2003?  I believe it was before Windows XP SP2 shipped (Code Red, Nimda, and Sasser). 
    Vista will take security for Windows to a new level, as it will finally be a version of Windows where people can run as a "Standard User" and thus reducing the their security risk, while still being able to easily install software and drivers as they need without having to logoff the system and log on as admin.  Yes, I know Linux/Unix has had this for a while.  Vista will also deliver Parental Controls built into the system that are not part of Windows XP.
    Was/is Vista too ambitious…  Maybe, but I think Microsoft came to that realization in 2004, when the whole project was basically "restarted" and certain things were cut from the release.  Maybe the current release was a little too ambitious, but at least they are owning up to the fact that it is going to take just a little longer to get it where they want.  Will it be totally bug free?  The answer to that is any Software Developer/Tester will tell you "It is not possible to find and fix all the bugs in a piece of software… If you try and fix all of the bugs, you will never ship!", but I expect that most people will be very satisfied with the quality of the product when it ships.  I would rather also have a company that sometimes does "think a little too big" and "takes risks" vs. "playing it safe."
    You say you probably won’t "pony up the money for the upgrade…"  🙂  Like it was going to cost YOU, a significant amount of money.  🙂  I am sorry, I couldn’t resist  🙂  I would like you to answer the question "Would you upgrade?" after your visit to Seattle in May…
    I think if you read the article from the Seattle P-I,  (http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/business/263885_msftvista22.html ) you might realize that wasn’t an easy decision for Microsoft to make, and did consult considerably with their hardware and software partners before making this decision.
    I think I may have to go write a blog entry now about why it seems like Google never "ships" anything…  🙂  (GMail is still "beta")  I also know you probably "baited" me a little bit with this entry.  🙂

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