Redmond ready to rock with Vista (and kryptonite 210)

You and IT Blogwatch: better together! Today, we look at Microsoft's big launch event for Vista, Office, and Exchange. Not to mention how Lex Luthor got the wrong victim...

Elizabeth Montalbaaaaano makes like Heather O'Roarke:

It's heeeeere ... After five years and numerous delays, customers can now get their hands on the final version of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Vista operating system. Well, business customers can, at least. Though Microsoft Corp. celebrated the launch of Vista -- as well as Office 2007 and Exchange 2007 -- at events across the globe today, neither Vista nor Office 2007 will be generally available through retail in the U.S. until Jan. 30, 2007 ... And while business customers can begin ordering Exchange 2007 now, the new version of Microsoft's messaging server software won't be released to manufacturing until the end of December.

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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was on hand with his usual enthusiasm at the New York launch event to promote what is arguably the industry's most highly anticipated product launch of the year ... Vista was the big star of the day, though Microsoft teamed the operating system's launch with Office 2007 and Exchange 2007 for several reasons. One is that the company is trying to promote the technology links between the products to show how they can bring better worker productivity and cost savings to business customers in the hope that companies will purchase and deploy all three at once.

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Consumers can't purchase Vista until January. And it may not even be the case then, as consumers in addition to business customers have said they may hold off on purchasing Vista until they need a new PC. Many of those new PCs are bought during the busy holiday shopping season already in progress, but since Vista is not available yet in retail outlets, it can't benefit from that rush.

Johanna Ambrosio worries:

Yes, the interface is beautiful, and it did wind up helping our real-time video client. (For some reason, channel 5 never worked before Vista.) But it turns out that some key drivers, at least for our home use, are still missing (among them a tablet device used for creating digital art and a painter application). The printer driver wasn't really happy, either. Most important, Vista broke our version of Norton antivirus. It was deader than a doornail. And, yes, Windows Live OneCare (Microsoft's own consumer security app) worked just fine.

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If an IT pro who knows how to find and install drivers couldn't get Vista to work to his satisfaction, I'm wondering what chance the average consumer has. Here's hoping that more drivers are available by the time the consumer version hits the street.

Cranky geek-twit John C. Dvorak comments on the financial impact:

Will sales of computers jump? What about peripherals? Anything? If you talk to the suppliers of components, manufactures and even the average geek, the answer is no, no and no. Worse the buzz surrounding Vista is nothing like the buzz that surrounded Microsoft's Windows 95, 98, Win NT and even Windows 2000 and XP. It's possible that some buzz will evolve, but it's beginning to look like a pretty standard news story rather than anything like the marketing events we've seen in the past. I have to assume that the promoters who put on a worldwide show for Windows 95, for example, have long since left the company. It looks like the best Microsoft can do is provide us with an incredibly bland façade that seems more like something coming from General Electric during the announcement of a new afterburner technology for a jet engine.

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The observers I chat with who follow corporate licensing do not see any large installations of Windows-based computers upgrading anytime soon. The word I keep hearing is "stagnation" ... Eventually this will settle down and we'll all be using Vista. But between now and then do not expect it to set the world on fire. From what I can tell there will be no major impact from this offering on any tech segment. Sorry.

King_TJ calls that Dvorak drivel:

John is treading in pretty "safe" territory with these comments ... I just got out of a technical meeting at my workplace this morning, and one of our discussions topics was the I.T. budget for 2007. It was universally agreed (with very little debate) that there's nothing compelling about spending money to upgrade our computer hardware (all Pentium 4 class systems with between 512MB and 1GB of RAM) ... wasteful to spend money upgrading to Vista in 2007, since we're currently on XP Pro and it does everything we need. In the case of Office 2007, the only reason we'd upgrade to it is in response to receiving too many documents from our customers that were created in Office '07.

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The things that would have cost-justified the product, at least in the eyes of corporate customers, were largely canned (such as the initially promised "revolutionary new file system").

But Mary Jo was caught off-guard:

I ... was surprised that Ballmer never once said the words “Better Together” during his hour-long remarks to press and analysts ... But that doesn’t mean company representatives failed to hammer home the Better Together messaging ... it was next-to impossible to tell which features ... were part of Office 2007 and which were in Vista. The confusion was intentional, Ballmer acknowledged. Microsoft is expecting potential business customers to evaluate the Vista and Office 2007 products separately but deploy them simultaneously.

Andrew Suffield yawns, and wonders about moving to Linux:

At one site, all the desktops had OpenOffice, Thunderbird, and Firefox on them when they were first installed, and not Outlook or MS Office, and IE was carefully disabled (if it had been a problem, we could have had Office installed later without any trouble). That site has now been running for over a year. Several of the users never even noticed that they weren't using MS-ware. None of them cared. There has been no need to install any other applications on any of the desktops. (We're now planning to deploy Linux desktops at the next new site, and not waste any more money on Windows licenses.)

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Every Windows box behaves differently after it's been running for 12 months and is starting to get clogged up with worms and spyware. Users are used to computers that don't behave consistently. Why should they care about a version that's slightly different again? They really don't. Most users don't pay any attention to details ... the people who moan about how free software "isn't ready" are just trying to justify a political position. My message to them: shut up and get on with your job. Windows and Office aren't ready either, but that's never stopped you before.

Richard MacManus looks at it from the Web perspective:

Because both products (OS and Office) are PC-based, Microsoft's clear strategy is to ensure there is a link from the desktop out to the Web. And vice versa - but make no mistake, the desktop is their key platform still ... What's perhaps of most interest to Web fans, is whether Microsoft's live.com start page will be used as a default homepage on Vista (via IE7). Or maybe Live Search is a better bet, which will strike at the heart of Google's challenge. If Live Search is the default homepage (we already know it will be the default search engine), then that will improve Microsoft's search market share by default too. As we noted recently, Vista will put pressure on Google's product line - as Vista will have IE7 as its default browser, and Live Search as default search and maybe the default homepage (either that or live.com, or MSN if they're being super conservative). 2007 is shaping up to be a fascinating year in the battle of the Web giants.

Paul Mooney was there and has pictures:

I asked Steve if anyone had calculated the man-hours necessary to produce Windows Vista aside from the five million beta testers, he smiled and said that contributions to Vista come from many different product Teams at Microsoft so no man-hour, man-month, man-year figure is available. Friends later told me that I was on the giant LCD screen atop the NASDAQ exchange in Times Square, larger then life as I asked that question. I should have had my URL embroidered on my shirt...

[Paul also links to Microsoft's launch fake-blog. At least MS isn't censoring the critical comments.]

David Hunter wonders who cares:

It seems like folks are feeling a bit jaded. Maybe it’s because Exchange isn’t really quite ready and Vista and Office will only be released to volume purchase customers. Or maybe it’s because there have already been launch events held in other countries with pride of place, as far as I can tell, going to the United Arab Emirates on Nov. 19 where it was interestingly dubbed the Love campaign (Launch of Office, Vista and Exchange) ... Of course, “People-ready” is comedic gold, but strictly of the “laughs at” instead of the ”laughs with” variety.

Buffer overflow:

Around the Net Around Computerworld Previously in IT Blogwatch

And finally... Lex Luthor: incompetent as ever

Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at blogwatch@richij.com.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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