Software delays piling up for Microsoft
Tuesday, July 4, 2006 1:14 AM PDT
It’s an old story: Microsoft promises a certain release date for its new version of Windows or Office and then it ends up pushing the date back. Then, a few weeks later, it does it again.
This time, Microsoft’s problems could have a serious effect on the entire industry.
By delaying the release of both Windows Vista and its 2007 Microsoft Office system until after the critical Christmas retailing season, Microsoft not only hurts its own bottom line but affects potentially hundreds of hardware manufacturers, venders and retailers.
This effect is similar to a housing slowdown. When lots of Americans are buying homes, they’re also utilizing banking and mortgage products. With a new house to furnish and decorate, new home owners hit the furniture, drapes and home-decoration stores. These home owners start to pile up debt on their credit cards, making millions for Visa and MasterCard. And so on.
It’s the same with a new release of Windows. Microsoft’s new Vista needs more powerful hardware to utilize its features. I’ve been running Vista beta 2 test release for a couple weeks now, and I’m making a list of hardware I need to upgrade to take full advantage of the Vista features, especially its media center.
Without a more powerful graphics adapter, my computer can’t support the DirectX 9.0 software and advanced pixel shading required for advanced 3D graphics rendering.
Without a TV tuner card capable of both HDTV and analogy TV conversion, not to mention remote control capabilities, I won’t be able to take full advantage of the Media Center’s digital video recording capabilities.
I don’t have this gear yet, but I’ll be purchasing it soon in order to test-drive the media center features. I’m hoping I’ll be able to capture my favorite TV shows and play them back on either my PC or my TV. We’ll see.
In any event, one thing leads to another, and before you know it, consumers like you and me can spend a pretty penny because of a new version of Windows. On the Apple side of things, an update of MaxOS X produces a similar effect.
Imagine now how many new computers or graphics cards or LCD monitors might end up under the Christmas tree if a Microsoft product cycle could begin in the fall. Now imagine what happens when Microsoft has been promising this for months and then pulls the rug out by announcing a delay.
The Vista delay was first announced last March. Microsoft will not get Vista out to consumers until January 2007, though that date can and probably will change. It’s still promising a November 2006 release for its business partners, but that still might preclude a Christmas rollout.
The bad news this past week is the delay for the 2007 Microsoft Office system, which, in spite of its name, was intended for a 2006 release. That release is now likely delayed to 2007, as well.
Home consumers are not the only ones affected. Large enterprises have to plan carefully for the massive and myriad changes a new Windows or Office version might entail.
When Microsoft delays product releases, IT officers at large corporations begin to lose confidence in that particular product, causing them to rethink their rollout plans.
Many decide to back off and wait and see. No IT officer wants to oversee a software and hardware transition that cripples a company. Microsoft often suffers slow adoption of new products for this very reason.
Finally, the stock market reacts. An announcement of a Microsoft product release delay is old hat, and most stock analysts have grown used to expecting them. Still, it always portends a slow adoption, and Microsoft and its dependent vendors, from Intel to Cisco to Hewlett-Packard, can feel the effects on stock prices.
Microsoft’s recent delay announcements have depressed its stock prices and those of the broader computer industry.
You may want to know what happened to cause the delay. I’ve been using Vista’s beta 2 test release for the past two weeks, and though I’m not a software developer, I can tell that the release is still pretty buggy.
I also downloaded the 2007 Office beta 2 test release last week, and it crashed during installation on my Windows Vista test machine. Hmm.
I haven’t decided whether or not to try installing and testing it on my regular Windows XP machine because, frankly, I’m scared.
So apparently is Microsoft, leading to the twin delays of its two top products. Naturally, this is what public beta testing is all about. Still, it’s not good news for Microsoft or for the computer industry in general, which thrives on its upgrade cycles.