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Squall Line

After a flurry of releases around SQL Server 2005, BizTalk Server 2006, and Visual Studio 2005, Microsoft has taken a breather. The product drought will end in a big way come 2007, when a trifecta of flagship releases rolls out of Redmond.

Starting in January (and perhaps even earlier), customers can expect to greet Office 2007, the long-awaited Exchange Server 2007, and, of course, Windows Vista. For enterprise managers looking to upgrade two or more of these products, it could be a busy migration season. The good news: companies should be able to deploy based on need, rather than the requirements of the software.

"As far as I can tell there are no dependencies among these products, nothing that requires Vista or anything," says David Mitchell Smith, vice president and Gartner fellow. "They are really independent decisions."

Vista: Slippery When Wet
What looked like a cloudburst of new products, however, could stretch into a prolonged shower. According to a recent Gartner research note, analysts at the industry research firm predict that Windows Vista will likely slip again, most likely into the second quarter of 2007.

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

Microsoft, for its part, is sticking with its story. "We respectfully disagree with Gartner's views around timing of the final delivery of Windows Vista," says a spokesperson for the company. "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."

Gartner singles out the expanding scope of the late-beta review, which involves about two million users. "These users bring a much-greater variety of usage models than earlier beta releases, with a much-larger variety of software," the report says.

There's another reason that Vista could well slip into the spring of 2007, says Smith. "The damage has already been done when you miss the holiday season. The next real milestone is the end of the fiscal year for them, which is June, and the back-to-school PC buying season."

Raindrops Keep Falling
Even if Vista slips, the first half of 2007 should be a busy time for Microsoft product managers. Enterprise IT managers will also be paying close attention.

"Sometimes enterprises choose to do these things together, for cost savings," says Smith, who notes that his group is "not predicting slips or any other problems" with Office or Exchange. "We haven't seen any reason to want to make any statements about those yet."

So what will arrive when? According to Microsoft, Q1 of 2007 will see the arrivals of Exchange, as well as consumer versions of Vista and Office. For volume business customers, Office is slated to arrive in October 2006, with Vista just behind it in November. One interesting wrinkle is Office 2007, which on the consumer side has been aligned with the launch of Vista for the consumer market.

"We have, however, decided to coordinate with Windows Vista to hit retail store shelves and the OEM channel in January 2007," says a spokesperson for the Microsoft Office System group.

Could it be that Microsoft is more confident of its new Vista schedule than Gartner expects? Or is it simply a matter of the Office team getting final word before decoupling its software from Vista? One thing is clear: IT managers need to keep a sharp eye out for breaks in the clouds.

About the Author

Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.

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