Tech makes most of Vista-free holidays

Despite delays in its Vista release, Microsoft and its partners are keeping the new product top-of-mind

Despite delays in its Vista release, Microsoft and its partners are keeping the new product top-of-mind

When Microsoft announced that its perpetually delayed Vista operating system wouldn't see consumer release until January 2007, it seemed as if Christmas and Hanukkah were snatched away from hundreds of hardware and software manufacturers.

Instead of the partner spoils that come with a major new Microsoft OS release, PC manufacturers are now faced with marketing an assortment of products with soon-to-be-outdated software to potential shoppers. Software manufacturers have to put a hold on launching full-scale marketing for their Vista-compliant wares.

"It's a unique event in the tech industry when Microsoft rolls out a major, new operating system," says Tim Dyson, Next Fifteen CEO. "This isn't just a small upgrade; this is a complete rewrite of the product."

With no holiday upgrade, according to The Wall Street Journal, many computer makers are planning to slash prices to appeal to shoppers who might otherwise ignore computers without the new OS. Combined with negative early reviews for Microsoft's Zune mp3 player, the holiday season could prove melancholy for the computing giant.

But Microsoft has taken positive steps to ensure that both partners and consumers are kept happy during the holidays.

Derek Torres, co-author of the soon-to-be-released book The Unofficial Guide to Windows Vista, says that Microsoft has handled the delay well, specifically by announcing the 2007 target in March of this year.

"It gave advanced notice [to the public]," Torres says. "And the hardware partners probably knew before that."

While Microsoft could not be reached for interview by press time, Kevin Kutz, director of the company's Windows Client division, released a statement to PRWeek: "From the beginning, our partners have shared our focus on delivering a high-quality Windows Vista and 2007 Microsoft Office system to business customers on November 30 and to consumers on January 30, 2007."

Microsoft, which works with Waggener Edstrom Worldwide on all Vista and Office business, also tapped Edelman to handle promotion around consumer launch day.

"The fact that it's being delayed one or two months, yes, there's some impact in terms of missing an important holiday season, but the success of an operating system is not consumers buying it," Dyson says. "The success is people providing [third-party] applications for it. If there are no new software packages, no new games, database products, then Vista will fail."

Most hardware and software manufactures contacted for comment did not respond. But Tiffany Smith, PR manager in HP's Personal Systems Group, says the company didn't expect customer demand to lag or decrease owing to the January launch. She adds that HP's holiday promotional plans were not affected by the Vista delays, as its holiday promotion, announced September 28, was diversified through highlighting a number of technologies.

Microsoft is not completely leaving partners and consumers without solutions to the Vista delay. Those who can't wait for the official launch can buy qualified computers up until March 2007, which will allow for either free or discounted "Express Upgrades" when the consumer version launches. HP is one of the participants in that program.

"The salespeople [at retailers] are probably going to push the Express Upgrade, which is a good marketing idea," Torres says.

"We do believe that the Vista Express Upgrade program will help facilitate this transitional period for 'early adopter' customers who prefer to upgrade to Windows Vista and who wish to take advantage of the promotional pricing available during the holiday period," Smith says, via e-mail.

Torres says he noticed, through his research, that a number of computers on sale now have drivers that are Vista-compatible, meaning that there will be little trouble upgrading once the software becomes available to the masses.

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