Building up to the Windows Vista Launch

In the run-up to the Windows Vista launch on Thursday (the volume licensing launch that is), the news on Microsoft's first major desktop operating system release in five years has been coming fast. A recap of major developments in the months leading up to the launch.

Release to manufacturing, that moment when the engineers let go of a final build after years of work, happened for Office 2007 on Nov. 7 and for Windows Vista on Nov. 8. The products are launching at the same time – an enterprise launch on Thursday and broad availability in January.

A few days after the Vista RTM announcement, Microsoft revealed that the volume licensing launch isn't just for enterprises anymore. In a coup for CompUSA, the computer retailer announced with Microsoft that it would be offering early sales of Vista and Office on Thursday. Small businesses looking for five or more copies of the products could get them at CompUSA locations.

For those customers obtaining Vista under enterprise agreements, there's a new hoop to jump through during deployment. Each copy of Vista, and later of Windows "Longhorn" Server, must be activated within 30 days of installation. Microsoft positions the change as closing a significant piracy loophole. The moves are part of a much tougher posture against piracy in this generation of Windows releases, which could be effective against pirated software but also has observers concerned about technical glitches that may inhibit legitimate users.

In a slightly less controversial set of changes from Windows XP, Microsoft is billing Vista as a cost-saving version of Windows through power-use reductions and decreases in deployment and management costs.

Eager to get your hands on Vista and Office 2007 now? MSDN Premium subscribers already have access to the bits. Others can at least get a voucher. In an effort to help the PC industry, which had been desperate for a Vista release in time for the holiday-buying season, Microsoft is giving purchasers of new systems coupons for free or heavily discounted upgrades to Vista and Office 2007.

Financially, Microsoft is planning to defer reporting about $1.5 billion in revenues from the current quarter to the following quarter to account for the coupon program. Earlier this month, Chairman Bill Gates told investors that Vista would be the biggest Windows release since Windows 95, repeating a claim senior company executives have been making for more than a year. In the realm of harder numbers, a poll sponsored by CDW Corp. found that 20 percent of IT decision makers plan to adopt Windows Vista within the next year.

In other momentum news, Microsoft posted the word on an official blog that nearly 20,000 device drivers are shipping on the Vista DVD, roughly double the number of drivers that came with Windows XP in 2001. Microsoft says it's on track with new certifications, and several systems integrators are participating in an initiative to help enterprise customers with application compatibility.

As is now standard with a new Windows release, competitors and antitrust regulators are quite concerned. While Microsoft agreed to changes to satisfy European Union regulators and Gates publicly claimed that Vista has survived antitrust challenges, neither closes the matter.

McAfee cried foul on Vista's security code and several strategic Microsoft partners are angry about various aspects of the new OS. Meanwhile, Google executives have been meeting with the EU.

Some security issues emerged quickly with the version of Internet Explorer 7.0 that was released for Windows XP. Vista sports a similar but separate version of IE 7.0.

Meanwhile, there's a lot more that goes into that Windows startup sound than you might imagine. Musician Robert Fripp recorded hours of guitar sounds for the 4 second result. Microsoft's Steve Ball spent about 18 months on the clip to get the sound just right.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.