Is Vista's delay good for the industry?

Microsoft's Brad Goldberg says the company made the right call. But will PC sales suffer?

When it comes to Vista, Microsoft's update to the client version of Windows, sticking to a product shipment schedule has been a recurring problem.

Most industry watchers thought the company would revise its ship date in time for this year's holiday season, especially after the well-publicized "reset" of Vista --back when it was still known as Longhorn--in August of 2004. But Tuesday, Microsoft again pushed back its launch plans.

Company executives say the move is a necessary short-term pain that will lead to a long-term gain for the entire PC industry. Analysts aren't so sure and wonder if holiday-season PC sales--as well as Microsoft's credibility with partners--will suffer as a result.

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Ina Fried interviews Brad Goldberg about the Vista delay.

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To get an insider's view on the thinking behind the decision to delay Vista, CNET News.com spoke with Brad Goldberg, general manager for Windows Client product management at Microsoft.

Q: When Microsoft announced changes in 2004 to the Longhorn--now Vista--schedule, one goal was to take out WinFS and change some features to really guarantee a holiday 2006 launch. Does Microsoft now regret that decision?
Goldberg: In August of 2004 we made three announcements: We were going to be taking parts of the Windows development platform down-level to Windows XP; we were going to be separating the release from WinFS; and we were going to have broad availability of Windows Vista in the second half of 2006. Those were absolutely the right decisions based on customer feedback, and I feel very good about all of the decisions we made then. That really has shaped a lot of the work we have done on the project since then.

It seems like the Vista delay will create a lot of headaches for PC makers and how they plan to sell PCs during the holidays. Is Microsoft going to do anything to help them out?
Goldberg: The feedback that we have heard from partners is different than what you just outlined. The feedback we got from OEM (original equipment manufacturer) partners, retailers, channel partners and others was pretty consistent. They were asking us for visibility around our ability to deliver broadly for consumers at the holiday season. They said the thing that would have been hardest and most challenging would have been getting to a point close to the holiday and either scaling back availability to the point where people wouldn't have the supply to meet demand, or that we would have to alter some plans after they had made investments. So, this decision was really made based on very consistent feedback we got from the industry about how to think about our release timing.

We've also heard that January has emerged as a very significant month from a consumer perspective, almost as a second holiday selling season...

Windows chief Jim Allchin talked on the conference call about how security was a particular issue (for the delay). But in general, it seems that security stuff is related to architectural decisions that were made a long time ago. Was there something specific that came up recently on the security front?
Goldberg: The points that Jim was trying to make were around the fact that we were feature-complete earlier in the year and now it's around fit and finish, and what we need to do to get the overall user experience that we want. One example is user account control. That's an area where there is very significant investment that we made. It's one of the areas of the product that's going to drive the most value around a safer, more secure computing experience for businesses as well as for consumers. But like Windows XP Service Pack 2, when we make changes to make the computing experience more secure, there can be an impact on applications. This is a space that as we work with corporate customers, they need to look at the impact that changes they need to make will have on applications. When we work with consumers, ISVs and other software vendors, we want to be conservative and make sure we have the right amount of time so that we can act on the feedback we get from customers through the rest of the cycle.

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About the author

    During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried has changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley. These days, most of her attention is focused on Microsoft. E-mail Ina.

     

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