Microsoft's delays cause more than just frowns

As soon as Tobey Maguire gets bit by that radioactive spider and starts swinging around on gross-looking web thingies, his uncle has that quote that defines his future: "With great power comes great responsibility." The big M needs to adopt that philosophy, too.

Microsoft has made a concerted effort to rev every product in its arsenal at least once every two years. We all know why it does that: buckeroonies. Keep pushing customers down the never-ending upgrade path and increase your revenues, easy peasy. But it gets a little more complex when you've got oodles of market share and some of your products require other products to do their job.

Frankly, Microsoft's been ignoring that little part of the equation and it's getting ever more annoying. The Vista delay announcements haven't really been that troublesome; if I were contemplating a new desktop OS rollout, a sudden delay tossed my way would bother me only a little.

Having the "20 percent chance of another delay" announcement tossed at me, on the other hand, followed by yet more silence would be downright annoying. Pick a date that's far enough out to be safe and be done with it -- what's with the stringing along, already?

But it continues. Last week's announcement that Expressions was going to be delayed by at least a year got my frown a-wrinkling, too. Expressions Studio is what FrontPage has become, though Microsoft says it's a completely different code base.

Apparently, the product was originally supposed to show up this summer and now won't show up until well after next summer and possibly not until 2008. That's not critical to us system admins, but developers sure are getting a curveball tossed their way, even those with duties as small as Sharepoint collaboration.

Now there's another announcement that puts some service updates for Visual Studio into question. Two of these were supposed to be delivered around this time: the first one back in April, the second one pretty much now. It looks like the first one won't be out until August, and there's been no word on when the second update will be delivered. Just service packs, true, but these contain specific feature updates that some developers are no doubt waiting for. Again, not a big ding for us system admins, but we'll undoubtedly hear about it from the developers.

So up until now, I was coasting along thinking I was doing okay. But then I helped Jamie Bernstein with our forthcoming review of Exchange 2007. This is where Microsoft's laissez-faire attitude toward delivery started to spoil my day.

The problem is that Redmond is dictating a 64-bit-only future for pretty much all of its back-server products once Longhorn sees daylight. I'm fine with that -- it's the natural evolution of server-side computing, so they might as well develop toward it and cut down on complexity. Besides, most folks lease their servers nowadays, so we're swapping out once every three years anyway -- it works out.

That is, it works out provided Longhorn ships on time. But it won't. Vista has already been pushed back and Longhorn will undoubtedly get pushed right along with it. Yet for some reason, back-end products such as Exchange 2007 are still shipping on time -- that'll be around November for Exchange 2007.

That means a 64-bit-only version of Exchange will be delivered several months before Longhorn. And this means anyone trying to run the thing as soon as it comes out will need to run it on Windows Server 2003 x64 ... until Longhorn comes out, at which point Microsoft will strongly suggest that you upgrade the OS.

See, that's just blatant disregard for your customer.

Of course, the fix is easy: We just won't buy it until Longhorn sees daylight.

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Oliver Rist

InfoWorld
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