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Analysts: Windows XP Release Slipping

Is Microsoft Corp.'s next-generation Windows XP client operating system going to be late or not?

A few analysts, among them Rob Enderle with the Giga Information Group, stirred up trouble for Microsoft stock with reports that XP could be the latest in a long line of oft-delayed software releases out of Redmond.

Microsoft has never officially promised a specific delivery date for Windows XP, and has indicated only that its next-generation Windows product is slated to ship sometime in the "second half" of 2001.

Nevertheless, most industry watchers - and many anxious Wall Street investors - are expecting Microsoft to ship Windows XP by August - just in time for the back-to-school computer and software buying rush that helped to make the company's seminal Windows 95 launch such a smashing success.

According to Enderle, Microsoft itself has encouraged such a perception. Rob Enderle, a research fellow with consultancy Giga Information Group, claims that the software giant at one time led him to believe that Windows XP would probably ship at roughly the same time as did Windows 95 - that is, in the August timeframe.

Microsoft officials also led ENT editors to believe the same thing with discussion of getting it out in time for the "back-to-school" season.

Based on feedback that Enderle's received from several of the PC manufacturers that have worked closely with Microsoft during its Windows XP development effort, however, he says that he now believes that the software giant will miss that mark.

According to Enderle, Microsoft will more than likely RTM the Windows XP gold code by August – which would push the operating system's general release back until the October timeframe.

"It looks like the reason for the slippage is the compatibility issues which typically happen at this time in the release cycle," he says.

"So that appears to be what's pushed back the date."

At the same time, however, Enderle says that Microsoft is under a tremendous amount of pressure from PC manufacturers and from financial analysts alike to get Windows XP out the door in time for the crucial Christmas buying season. For that reason, he believes, the next-generation operating system will almost definitely ship by October - and possibly even sooner.

"As I understand it the October date is the drop-dead date, so we don't expect them to slip that one," he says. "I think that the financial analysts are now putting a substantial amount of pressure on Microsoft to move the date back yet again, however. So we'll see if they're successful."

At least one IT manager says that news of a Windows XP delay doesn't surprise him. "It wouldn't be the first time," says Theodore Woo, an IT manager with a large, multi-national telecommunications company headquartered in the U.S. "They were late with Chicago [Windows 95], they were late with Windows 98, and everyone knows that they were late with NT 5.0."

Microsoft has traditionally batted a solid 0-for-0 with respect to shipping operating system releases on time. For example:
* The company's "Chicago" operating system was delayed for at least a year, was freshly re-christened Windows 95 and slated for a June 1995 release, and was delayed for another two months thereafter.
* Similarly, Microsoft's follow-up to "Chicago" - "Memphis" - was originally slated to debut as Windows 96, was subsequently re-branded as Windows 97, and finally materialized - after almost three years of slippage - as Windows 98.
* Most infamously, Microsoft's follow-up to Windows NT 4.0 - "Cairo," or Windows NT 5.0 - was slated for a late 1997 debut and endured a year of slippage before being re-christened "Windows 2000" in October 1998. The long-awaited Windows 2000 operating system finally shipped in February 2000 - more than three years after the debut of NT 4.0.

For his part, Woo says that he has no idea whether or not his organization plans to upgrade to Windows XP, and notes that most of his company's desktop systems still run Windows NT 4.0. He reckons that for corporate users such as himself, Windows XP isn't necessarily a priority.

"I can see where it could be very important in the consumer space," he says. "After all, it's the first stable version of Windows that most home users will ever see." – Stephen Swoyer

See ENT’s Special Report on Windows 2002 Beta 2:
Whistler Server Renamed as Windows 2002
Windows 2002 Takes Shape With Beta 2
IIS Architecture Overhauled for Reliability in 6.0
Microsoft Looking to Shift Its Server Mix With Windows 2002
Beta 2 Distribution on a Much Bigger Scale Than Beta 1
Column: Don't Lose Sleep over Windows XP
ENT's Coverage of Microsoft's Beta 1 Release of Whistler

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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