IT shops with up-to-date desktop operating systems will likely see no impact if Microsoft's next-generation operating system slips beyond its newly adjusted January 2007 shipping date.
Gartner Inc. said this week that it doesn't expect this broad availability to happen before the second quarter of 2007. "Microsoft isn't saying we're right at this point, but judging from history, how long it takes for them to get things out, and how complex the Vista code is, this is our assessment," said Michael Silver, an analyst at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn.
Customers with Software Assurance agreements that end in December, January or February will probably be among the few directly affected by the delay, Silver said. If Software Assurance expires when Vista is supposed to ship, and a customer was not planning to renew, then Microsoft's delivery date for Vista matters very much because that customer will miss the free upgrade. "One month can make a big difference," he said.
Another group of customers who need to watch Vista ship dates are those running Windows 2000 on their desktops. There are plenty of enterprises that chose to skip Windows XP in favor of waiting for the next desktop release following XP.
Windows 2000 support runs to 2010, but some application vendors -- particularly the small companies -- may not want to support their products on anything less than Windows XP, Silver said.
In March, Microsoft said Vista would not be broadly available until early January, roughly two months later than expected and too late for the holiday season. Customers are expected to be able to download completed Vista code in November.
Also in March, Microsoft said it expected to have volume licensing for Vista available in December. "If that date slips then customers should hold Microsoft's feet to the fire," he said.
Since Microsoft's publicized the latest Vista delay, there have been rumblings from beta customers viewing Vista code who said they believed that based on what they were seeing, the ship dates could slip even further.
For the most part, experts don't expect to see mainstream rollouts of Vista until 2008 so corporate IT shops, particularly those running Windows XP, should not be too concerned if Vista slips a few more months.
"We've got our hands full now with some acquisitions we've made," said Steve Dougherty, an IT executive at Sunbeam Inc., a division of Jarden Corp. in Boca Raton, Fla., which runs Windows XP SP2 on its desktops. 'We're only interested in the fact that it's the next OS, but I don't think anyone is sitting on the edge of their seat."