Another Vista delay? Gartner predicts Microsoft could ship in Q2 2007

Posted by Scott M. Fulton, III

Stamford (CT) - In a report issued today that, sadly, may not be as shocking as it might have been had it been issued three months ago, a group of Gartner Group analysts have advised that Microsoft may already have been planning to slip its shipping dates for the consumer editions of Windows Vista until March 2007. This advice would be in line with conventional wisdom, with which we were acquainted during the first delay, that January may as well be March anyway.

And if you go down that route, reporters who have seen the report are indicating this afternoon, March may as well be June.

A teaser for the report on Gartner's Web site reads as follows: "Microsoft's track record is clear; it consistently misses target dates for major operating system releases. We don't expect broad availability of Windows Vista until at least 2Q07, which is nine to 12 months after Beta 2."

Reuters quotes the interior of the report as including the following: "Microsoft still wants to get it out as soon as possible, but slipping from January to March is nowhere near as bad as slipping from shipping before the holidays to after the holidays." Microsoft is, incidentally, the producer of Microsoft Project, an Office component said to be used by tens of thousands of businesses to help them maintain their critical business schedules.

A Microsoft spokesperson today told TG Daily, "We respectfully disagree with Gartner's views around timing of the final delivery of Windows Vista. We remain on track to deliver Windows Vista Beta 2 in the second quarter, and to deliver the final product to volume license customers in November 2006, and to other businesses and consumers in January 2007."

That term "on track" has rung alarm bells before. Last 22 March, Microsoft used that term to describe the act of delaying Vista itself. "Microsoft is on track to complete the product this year," the company said in its press release that day, "with business availability in November 2006 and broad consumer availability in January 2007."

Last month, it was revealed that Hewlett-Packard asked Microsoft to delay its Vista shipping schedule, since it would not have been possible, apparently, for the manufacturer to have had due time to install the operating system on its computers had Vista been released in November, in time for sale before Christmas. The HP excuse gave observers and analysts reason to believe there may not have been serious software issues with Vista after all, and that Microsoft was simply giving the world's #2 PC manufacturer time to get things right. But if another delay comes - keep in mind, this is not official, but a Gartner Group prediction - then it likely will not be seen as one that was requested by a partner, but one that was necessitated by internal issues.

If there are any internal issues, they might not be too easy to discern, judging from the company's "track." "We are on track for beta 2 in the second quarter of this year," the company's spokesperson told TG Daily. "The engineering and feedback processes in Windows Vista are different - and better - than they have been with earlier operating systems. The changes we've made have allowed us to deliver a more complete test version of the product to customers earlier than ever before and to incorporate more timely and relevant feedback faster, and they will enable us to deliver the highest quality operating system ever built."

The news from Microsoft has not been good this week, with the company's CFO predicting a downturn in earnings in the wake of increased expenses and a moderating consumer PC market. But Marketwatch reports that financial analysts remain bullish on the company, despite today's 1% stock selloff in the wake of the Gartner report.