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Microsoft needs a Vista Success PDF Print E-mail


On 30 November, Microsoft begins the roll-out of its new operating system, Windows Vista, and the latest version of its suite of productivity software, Office 2007. So what is at stake?

You run a company where two of your product lines account for more than 56% of your sales. They make enough profit to sustain losses in other divisions.

Would you worry about relaunching them at the same time?

We are not talking about pocket money here.

During the last financial year Microsoft's operating system and office software divisions made an operating profit of $18.5bn (£9.5bn, 14.1bn euro) on a turnover of just under $25bn.

But is Microsoft really taking a gamble?

No Vista Christmas

Let's not forget that Vista is late. Very late.

Instead of three years, it has taken Microsoft five years and 10,000 workers to get Windows Vista ready for the big time.

Because last-minute delays pushed the launch to the end of the year, Microsoft had to settle for an awkward staged release.


The new operating system will be sold to corporate customers first; consumers will not get their hands on Vista until 30 January 2007.

Logistically it would have been "just too difficult to make Vista broadly available to everyone," says Gordon Frazer, managing director of Microsoft UK.

That means that Microsoft and its hardware partners - computer makers including Dell and Hewlett-Packard - will be missing out on this year's Christmas business.

"It's no secret that [computer manufacturers] would have liked the launch in time for the holidays," says David Smith, a Vista expert at consulting firm Gartner.

Why upgrade?

To make things worse, many customers will ask why they should upgrade at all.

Yes, Microsoft's current operating system, Windows XP, does not look as pretty as rival offerings like Apple's OS X.

But it is stable, fairly secure, and compatible with tens of thousands of supporting hardware and computer programs. Why go through the cost and pain of buying, installing and learning a new operating system?


Many companies are wary. They run specialised software on Windows and use hundreds of different pieces of hardware. They will have to test each and every one of them to see whether they work under Vista.

And then there are those who wonder whether operating systems do matter at all.

Run a good browser on any old operating system, they say, and the majority of people can meet most of their software needs online and on demand.

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