Microsoft Corporation announced today that while it plans to roll out its next major operating system, Windows Vista, to volume licensees in November 2006, Vista won’t be available to everyday consumers until January 2007, after the end-of-year buying season has concluded.
At the same time, Microsoft confirmed it plans to begin consumer beta releases of Vista during the second quarter of 2006.
Explaining the decision to delay Vista to consumers, Jim Allchin, Microsoft’s co-president for the Platforms & Services Division, said, “The industry requires greater lead time to deliver Windows Vista on new PCs during holiday. We must optimize for the industry, so we’ve decided to separate business and consumer availability.” Although public support for the Vista delay is on display from Microsoft partners like Hewlett-Packard and Best Buy, some channel partners have to be disappointed they will not be able to offer Windows Vista on new machines sold during the end-of-year holidays. As computers embed themselves further into functionality and lifestyle areas traditionally dominated by consumer electronics, the holiday buying season becomes more important for computer makers, especially those targeting consumers.
In additional to consumers, the decision means delaying the availability of Windows Vista to small businesses and others who purchase Windows through retail channels or upgrade when they buy a PC.
Allchin declined to comment on whether Microsoft or its partners might provide Vista upgrade vouchers for consumers or businesses purchasing computers during the latter half of 2006.
Microsoft currently plans six editions of Windows Vista, two aimed at home users, one at business users, one at the enterprise market, one “ultimate” edition with everything plus the kitchen sink, and a “starter” edition aimed at markets in developing nations. Two additional releases are planned for the European Union without Windows Media software included by default.