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What would Vista have been like if it had delayed until June 2007?

Last summer there was talk of yet another delay for Vista. The rumors were flying that Microsoft wouldn’t or couldn’t make its end of year launch date. Lots of people chimed in, siding with the rumor. At the time I blogged that a delay or not wouldn’t impact me too much one way or another. I’d still be using the Vista beta and I could wait until June 2007 or whenever if Microsoft needed the time. However, Microsoft stood firm and announced they could get Vista out the door by 2007. And so they did. By the end 2006 Microsoft had launched the enterprise version of Vista and planned a consumer launch by the end of January 2007.

As I sit here typing this blog post on my Vista-running notebook, I realize I’m a benefitiary of the many new Vista features. I’m hooked on the ability to type an app name from the Start menu to quickly launch an app when I can’t remember where it’s located, if it’s on the machine at all–or when I’m too lazy to drill down three or more levels of folders to get it. Same goes for the Search box in the Control Panel. I’ve also grown dependent on the Mobility Center and the much more refined control of the WiFi. And, then there are the enhancements to the shell which make Windows easier to navigate with the stylus, such as the checkboxes in Windows Explorer and the graphical stylus feedback in Vista itself. Other than these features, I realize I “use” the Aero shell on most of my machines, but then again I don’t really notice it all that much. And I’m still getting used to the Control Panel and the I’m still trying to improve how I navigate Windows Explorer. There are lots of these little things that take time to get used to. I remember stumbling much the same way when transitioning from Windows 2000 to XP. These don’t bother me that much. They’re the price to pay as Windows itself becomes better organized.

Like all big OS transitions, there have been some bumps along the road. I still don’t have a complete set of drivers and for the drivers I have I still run into Sleep/shutdown problems, occassional blue screens (although I haven’t encountered one in a month or two so maybe that problem is gone), about 60% battery life (guesstimate on the Toshiba M400 although the Samsung Q1 does fine), a couple of the Tablet features don’t work, and a mix of beta software (developer tools) from Microsoft that’s trying to catch up with the OS itself.

So thinking about how I use Vista today, the state of the developer tools, and the like I began to wonder, what would my Vista experience be like today if Microsoft had delayed the launch of Windows till let’s say June 1, 2007 as some had predicted last summer was necessary?

First, Microsoft would have missed out on its great quarter this year. For the stock holders this would have been a big deal. As a customer, I’m not that interested in it, although I tend to like purchasing big-commitment products from companies that have solid futures. And a strong quarter helps Microsoft continue to grow in areas that are becoming even more important to me, such as mobile searching and browser-based developement.

What else might have changed if Vista had been delayed six months?

Would there be more drivers? Top of my list of things to ponder is whether additional time would have helped the driver issue. I don’t think so. In fact, it might have made it worse. I bet more of the equipment I currently own would fall off the list of supported hardware. The manufacturers want to focus on their new equipment. I do think, though, that the driver issue is Microsoft’s biggest mistake when it comes to Vista. With the widespread adoption of laptops, Tablet PCs, and the like which have few hardware upgrade choices, the OS needs to “just work” when it’s installed. It’s a huge challenge, I can see, but that’s the new standard as I see it.

Would Vista be better tuned? This is one area where I be Microosft could have made some noticeable improvements. I imagine with extra time, the battery issue could have been resolved. Maybe not–because I don’t know what causes it anyway–but that’s my guess. Other tweaks might have been feasible to add here and there too. Could Microsoft have shaved off a few more seconds to its shutdown times? Maybe. And there are some flash-to-black screen flickers I see from time to time that look terrible. Not sure if they are driver problems or Vista problems. I’d imagine some extra time could have addressed these.

It’s all about SP1. Many in the IT industry argue that it’s not the launch date of Windows that’s the important date, it’s the launch date of SP1 that you should watch. Delaying Vista would delay SP1. No matter how good Vista would become in the extra 6 months, there would still be many that would argue to wait for SP1.

What about the Apple-Microsoft competition? I don’t see much difference. The iPhone still would have blown away everything at CES. Almost everyone I know that’s an early adopter has purchased a Mac (most run OS X and Vista though) or is about to. And Vista still would have hit the shelves before Leopard.

Which features would not have been cut? Given more time I imagine there would have been some features that would not have made the cutting block. What are they? I don’t know. Maybe multiple location support in Media Center? Maybe better ad-hoc networking?

Would it be any more secure? I’m not sure if security itself would have benefited all that much from a Vista delay, however, I’m sure the UAC, which pops up too much, could definitely have been improved.

Would the launch have been bigger or had one impact? This is one area where a Vista delay would have definitely helped. Since Vista was launched in two stages–as an enterprise event and then a consumer event–the launch itself was a bit of a fizzle. If Microsoft had waited, released the Vista versions together along with its updated developer tools (for WPF for isntance), and even a version of Silverlight, Vista would have looked much more like the advancement it is.

Back to school sales. No difference here I suspect. Some of the biggest sales come around the time students go back to school. A Januaray versus June date wouldn’t have had much impact here. There’d still be lots of happy students with their new laptops and Tablet PC come September 2007.

Office is the other hundred pound guerilla. Delaying Vista probably would have caused Office to delay, which it didn’t really need. The one area where Office could have used some extra time though, was to improve its developer support for the new Ribbon. It was an unfortunate step backwards.

So in hindsight, was it a good idea not to delay Vista till June 2007? Actually, outside of the financial side for Microsoft itself, I don’t think there would have been much difference to end users. Early adopters such as myself, would be using the Vista beta, so it’s not like I wouldn’t be running it night and day anyway. Maybe there would be a littlle more refined version of Vista, with a few more drivers, and a better developer story, but that’s about it. Looked at another way, I don’t think consumers would have minded the delay in Vista–especially if the time could have been used to address the driver issue. However, for the most part I don’t think consumers care one way or another.

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