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Big Trouble in Vista Land

Windows Vista is in serious danger of more delays. The danger exists even if you accept Microsoft's assurances that the Australian trade publication Smarthouse is wrong about Microsoft needing to rewrite more than half of the Windows Vista code.

Here's the problem: With the consumer release of Windows Vista delayed until January, the project is officially unmoored from any real deadlines. The holiday buying season was a real deadline. The PC industry banked on it; industry observers, who were used to Microsoft blowing deadline after deadline, were sure the company wouldn't miss this one. The stakes on this particular deadline simply couldn't have been any higher, and Microsoft missed it anyway.

Now some Microsoft officials are saying the holiday season really wasn't so important. Gift cards make January the new December, some argue. The Consumer Electronics Show is the new launch venue. This is idle talk.

If the real holiday season wasn't enough to anchor this operating system, a much more tenuous "gift card season" deadline isn't going to be given a second thought. And I can't remember the last time Microsoft launched an operating system at anything other than its own launch event.

Jim Allchin, co-president of the platforms and services division, won't want to delay the project any more than he already has. Over a long career, he's consistently emphasized quality. From the outside, it looks like the quality-ensuring testing processes he put in place are the main reason for the slip.

Without a hard deadline like the holiday PC buying season, though, events could take decisions about whether to reopen and tinker with the code out of Allchin's control. Remember the two Whistler operating systems and the summer of 2001? Whistler was the code name for what became Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. They were supposed to ship a few months apart. Then the summer of 2001 happened, with new classes of worms and blended threats -- each more dangerous than the last. Windows XP, with a relatively hard ship date, went out as planned. Windows Server 2003 wasn't so firmly moored. With a loose ship date, the product had no protection from the industry demand that Microsoft do something about the security threats. The result was the Trustworthy Computing code review and an 18-month gap between Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

Fortune favors the product that's out the door.

Read more about Vista's slippery slope.

Oh, By the Way, Office Is Late, Too
While we're on the subject of delayed products, don't look for Office this fall either. Always loosely coupled to the Windows Vista release, Office is following its OS cousin into a 2007 delivery schedule. As with Vista , Microsoft says the product will be done this year (in October in Office's case), but the company will just hold onto the product for a 2007 release.

How do all these missed deadlines affect you? We'd like to hear from you! E-mail me at sbekker@rcpmag.com.

IE Problems
There's exploit code floating around for an unpatched flaw in Internet Explorer. It's one of those flaws that requires a user to visit a maliciously crafted site or open a certain type of e-mail. Still, the company is considering an out-of-band security patch. More detail here.

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BizTalk for Partners
The third wheel of the SQL Server 2005, Visual Studio 2005 launch in November is really becoming available in May. Microsoft finished development and testing of BizTalk Server 2006 last week and will make the product generally available on May 1. BizTalk is the business process tier that slots in above the data tier of SQL Server 2005 and the development tier of Visual Studio 2005.

Microsoft says the BizTalk Server partner community is thriving. "As of March 2006, there areĀ 1,192 companies in the BizTalk Server competency; with more than 600 having been added thus far during this fiscal year," says Steve Martin, director of product management for BizTalk Server. "In addition 2,792 third-party consultants had gone through BizTalk Server training this fiscal year."

Click here for more about the BizTalk Server 2006 launch.

Posted by Scott Bekker on March 29, 2006 at 11:53 AM