Vista for Consumers Sets Sail
The Wow starts ... well, maybe a little later.
Despite aerial acrobats dangling on ropes from tall buildings, an extravagant
launch party, top third-party executives offering their homage and Microsoft
promising the "Wow Starts Now," many industry observers were not dissuaded
in their opinion about the early acceptance of Windows Vista.
At the long-overdue operating system's launch on a bitterly cold day in New
York, many believed Vista's ramp-up would be slower among both consumers and
business users than what Microsoft officials are predicting. Some say they'll
hold off on implementing it until there are many more applications that fully
exploit the new operating system, or simply wait until they buy their next PC.
"It's going to be a slow uptake, something we have been saying for quite
some time. We don't expect this to have a big impact on PCs in either the business
or consumer markets for much of 2007," says Al Gillen, research vice president
at System Software for IDC, a market researcher based in Framingham, Mass.
(L-R): now former Dell CEO Kevin Rollins, Intel Executive Vice President
Sean Maloney, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Toshiba President and CEO Hisatsugu
Nonaka, AMD Chairman and CEO Hector Ruiz and HP Executive Vice President
But Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's ever ebullient CEO, predicted that in its first
three months on the market Vista will sell five times as many copies as did
Windows 95 and twice the number that Windows XP did over the same period of
"This is the biggest launch in the history of the company. We think this
[Vista] will be a tremendously exciting product for customers to use and for
developers to innovate with given all of the new technologies in chips, systems
and devices we expect to arrive in the next year," Ballmer bellowed.
"I hope your forecasts are right," chimed in Todd Bradley, executive
vice president of the Personal Systems Group at Hewlett-Packard Co., referring
to Ballmer's sales predictions. He added that his company was officially the
first to sell a Vista-based system, which was transacted at 12:01 a.m. on launch
day in Auckland, New Zealand.
Kevin Rollins, the now-former CEO of Dell Inc., underlined Ballmer's optimism,
saying his company saw a 20 percent bounce in Web traffic over the weekend just
before the launch as the company began taking advance orders for Vista systems.
and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates promised more frequent but less
ambitious releases of Windows in the future, but insisted that the era
of the "big operating system release" is not over.
"There's been a lot of pent-up demand building for Vista and that's been
reflected in the amount of increased Web traffic we've been seeing. We have
some reason to believe it will continue," said Rollins, who was ousted
as Dell's top executive just a couple days after this event.
But in a calmer moment during the rollout Ballmer did acknowledge that most
sales of Vista, which has a steeper hardware requirement than its predecessor
Windows XP, will be with the purchase of new PCs, implying the uptake could
be more measured.
Over the years, Windows sales have closely tracked those of PCs, which increase
every year, either because of or in spite of what Microsoft does. In meetings
with financial analysts, Microsoft regularly portrays its Windows growth as
being at the mercy of the growth of PC sales in general.
In a Cirque du
Soleil-style performance, aerial acrobats formed a "human billboard,"
unfurling the Windows logo on the side of the Terminal Building in downtown
IDC's Gillen says he sees no reason why the recent growth rates for PCs should
not continue. Averaged over the course of the year, Gillen says, Microsoft's
failure to hit its goal of delivering Vista for Christmas will make little difference
in its overall shipments. Conversely, Gillen says, Vista itself probably won't
drive a huge increase in PC shipments on its own.
No one less than Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates reinforced Gillen's point. Speaking
at the event Gates drew some parallels to Windows 95: "There were a fifth
as many PCs [in 1995] as there are today." Gates' observation dovetails
with Ballmer's prediction that Vista will ship at five times the rate that Windows
Many of Microsoft's business partners present at the launch, although self-serving,
believe PC sales will continue to be robust and with them sales of Vista, proving
the PC remains an important and useful platform for both consumers and businesses.
"The PC has never been more important than it is now," said Sean
Maloney, an executive vice president at Intel Corp
by the Numbers
Vista will offer IT shops more available and compatible products
on its first day of delivery than any previous version of
the operating system.
• Supports 1.5 million devices
• Has 30,000, or three times more, drivers at launch
than Windows XP
• Over 5,000 products are currently certified to work
• Five million beta test versions were downloaded
• Vista will be accessible to about 90 percent of
the world's population by year's end
• About 640,000 partners worldwide will offer support
The New York rollout in January focused on consumers, unlike the late November
launch, which targeted businesses. Consequently, Ballmer and several business
partners focused on some of the ways they believed Vista could help make the
PC more integral to coordinating a range of different entertainment devices
in the home. They described scenarios in which PCs could feed content from the
Web or digital cameras to wide-screen, high-definition TVs in a living room.
Even on its first day of availability, Microsoft officials were being asked
if the first service pack for Vista was being planned, what might be in it and
when it would ship. Ballmer said the company has yet to set a date for the first
Again focusing on the future, analysts asked if Vista would be Microsoft's
last major client operating system the company ships, given the difficulty the
company had in completing it and the rising tide of swift Web 2.0 class competitors
the company now faces.
While he wouldn't say "no" directly, Ballmer did say there was too
much work left to do on operating systems for there not to be a next
Windows release. "We've got a very long list of stuff our engineers want
us to do," he said.
Asked if he was disappointed that Vista was late and missing a couple of promised
core capabilities, including the infamous Win/FS file system, Ballmer smiled
wryly and said, "I'm tremendously excited about what we're delivering."
It remains to be seen if the rest of the industry will share his excitement.
Scott Bekker is news editor for Redmond magazine. Ed Scannell is a writer with 25 years experience covering technology.