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Microsoft plays games with Vista ship date

Mar 27, 20063 mins
Enterprise Applications

Business version of Vista to ship in 2006, but new hardware won't be available until January.

Microsoft last week delayed release of the consumer version of Vista, but said the two business versions would ship in November.

Microsoft last week delayed release of the consumer version of Vista, but said the two business versions would ship in November (latest Vista news and notes).

However, observers say the move appears to be a marketing ploy to fulfill promises of a 2006 ship date rather than a response to demand from corporate customers.

The release of the business versions of Vista is muted by the fact that volume-licensing customers will be able to install Vista only on existing PCs, many of which will not be up to the task of running the operating system. New PCs preloaded with Vista won’t be available to anyone until January.

It is unclear how Vista will perform on older hardware because Microsoft hasn’t revealed the minimum hardware requirements for running the client operating system.

But currently published guidelines for Vista hardware configurations indicate that corporate customers likely will be forced into a hardware upgrade to achieve the full functionality of the operating system.

“I challenge you to purchase a machine today that will ultimately or optimally exploit Vista,” says Michael Cherry, an analyst for Directions on Microsoft.

Historically, Microsoft releases hardware requirements a month or two before a new product ships. The current Vista guidelines for beta testers call for hardware with a “Designed for Windows XP” logo, 512MB of RAM and a DirectX 9 class graphics processor unit (GPU).

To get the full Vista experience, users will need a GPU that supports the Windows Display Driver Model. Without it, users will see only a “Windows XP-comparable desktop graphics experience,” according to Microsoft.

“It is unconscionable that Microsoft has not set the hardware requirements, and pointing to the logo [doesn’t help] because you have to be an electrical engineer to understand that,” Cherry says.

“The hard and fast hardware requirements will come out soon. There is still a lot of performance testing going on,” says Mike Burk, product manager on the Windows client team at Microsoft.

It’s likely that the new hardware requirements will force Windows 2000 Professional users, the group that Microsoft sees as the most obvious upgrade candidates, to purchase new hardware.

“Vista is not like Windows 2000 or XP, where you could swing with old hardware and get away with it,” says John Kretz, president of system integrator Enlightened Point Consulting Group in Phoenix.

The bottom line is that November adopters likely won’t get more than a cursory look at Vista before it is generally available on store shelves and pre-installed on new PCs in January, a reality that even Microsoft is hinting at.

“This will allow businesses to begin their final testing and deployment efforts prior to the end of the year,” says Jim Allchin, the co-president of Microsoft’s platforms, products and services division.

Allchin says the split in the release of Vista versions will allow all OEMs to get their products to market at the same time. He also confirmed that a beta 2 of Vista would ship before the end of June and go out to more than 2 million testers.