Remember Windows 95? Unless you were vacationing on Pluto, you must.
It was, to my recollection, the most celebrated software release of the personal computing age. The hype surrounding the release rivaled a CD release by U2 or Bruce Springsteen at the height of their popularity. Buyers lined up outside Staples and CompUSA stores at midnight to buy the operating system the minute it officially went on sale.
Distributors had to carefully orchestrate deliveries so that retailers would have packages on their shelves just in time for the official release date, but not too far in advance to be tempted to start selling early.
Bill Gates became as popular as a rock star, making television appearances and filling function halls wherever he spoke.
Hell, even the Rolling Stones got involved. The aging British rockers reportedly cashed in a cool $14 million for the use of their 1981 hit “Start Me Up” in a Windows 95 advertising campaign.
But, as Bob Dylan sang a few years back, “I used to care … but things have changed.”
He might as well have been singing about the sentiment in the channel when Microsoft revealed the week of March 20 that it is delaying the release of its new operating system, Windows Vista.
The business version of the operating system is still slated for a November release, but the consumer version won’t be out till 2007.
The only people who seemed to really care were reporters and analysts.
The channel shrugged.
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A sales rep I contacted seemed puzzled with my queries about how the delay would affect business. Since the vast majority of customers don’t know anything about a forthcoming operating system release, he reasoned, how could the postponement possibly affect business?
Makes perfect sense. The channel, in its role of trusted advisor, has enormous power over customer purchases. So until VARs and integrators start promoting Vista to their customers, those users won’t even be thinking about the new operating system.
Because, you know, they are busy running their businesses.
SMBs (small and midsize businesses) that rely on their solutions providers to make IT decisions won’t be rushing to migrate to Vista. And those providers, if they are doing their job right, will be testing the operating system and evaluating customer environments before embarking on migration projects for customers.
Meanwhile, large companies aren’t tripping over themselves to adopt the new operating system. IT managers say they want to conduct thorough testing and train their staffs before migrating.
If anything, one gets the feeling that folks would have been more shocked if Microsoft hadn’t postponed the release yet again.
The delay, however, is not necessarily bad. Taking Microsoft’s stated reasons of quality control and security at face value, it is hard to fault the vendor for wanting to get it right. What a novel concept. Does that mean users won’t be spending countless frustrating hours trying to figure out why something isn’t working the way it is supposed to?
Oh, I kid Microsoft.
If you think about it, this delay actually is good news. Talk of the postponement is creating awareness of the forthcoming release. I figure if Microsoft delays the thing, say, another three or four times, chances are by then everybody on the planet and beyond will have heard of Vista. And a lot of them will be bursting with the need to buy it.
Pedro Pereira is a contributing editor for The Channel Insider. He covered the channel from 1996 to 2001, took a break, and now he’s back. He can be reached at [email protected]