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Microsoft Delays Vista Until January

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Jack Writes: Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday said it would delay general availability of Vista, the next major upgrade to the Windows operating system, until January 2007, a move that's expected to have some impact on consumer PC sales.

Businesses are expected to get access to the next-generation OS in November, with broader availability to consumers set for January 2007.

Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash., plans to go into "broad consumer beta" to about 2 million users in the second quarter of 2006, the company said in a statement. More than a half million customers have received the latest community technology preview for Vista.

Delaying shipments for consumer PCs until January means Microsoft will miss the holiday shopping season, which accounts for a major portion of retailers' annual sales. In announcing the delay, Jim Allchin, co-president for the Platforms and Services Division at Microsoft, said once it was determined that Vista would not ship in time for holiday sales, it made more sense to focus on businesses first.

"The industry requires greater lead time to deliver Windows Vista on new PCs during holiday," Allchin said in a statement. "We must optimize for the industry, so we’ve decided to separate business and consumer availability.”

Because of the way businesses test and deploy software, it made more sense for Microsoft volume licensing customers to receive Windows Vista a couple of months before consumers, the company said.

Rob Helm, director of research at Directions on Microsoft, said once it became apparent that the Christmas season would be missed, there was no good reason to push Vista out this year.

"[The delay] will have some impact on [consumer] PC sales, which were starting to depress already and now will go on for a couple more months," Helm said.

Indeed, worldwide PC shipments this year are expected to slow this year to a 10.7 percent increase over 2005 to 234.5 million units, according to Gartner. Shipments in 2005 were 15.5 percent higher than 2004. The delay, however, is expected to have a minor impact on enterprises.

"Typically, volume license renewals pile up in December, at the end of the calendar year, and June, the end of Microsoft's fiscal year," Helm said. "But with it RTMing [release to manufacturing] before the end of the year, those companies won't miss the Vista boat."

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