Microsoft Office has always been held up as the epitome of Microsoft development order as opposed to client operating system development where things are much more exciting. Perhaps some reconsideration is in order as Microsoft today announced a schedule slip for Office 2007:
“Based on internal testing and the beta 2 feedback around product performance, we are revising our development schedule to deliver the 2007 system release by the end of year 2006, with broad general availability in early 2007,” a Microsoft representative said in an e-mail.
It said in March that the product would be ready by this October, but said at the time it was delaying the retail availability until January, in order to jointly launch the product with Windows Vista.
The plan was to have a big joint launch and marketing campaign, but that’s apparently off unless Vista is similarly delayed.
“We are assessing the impact this timing change will have to our specific launch plans,” a Windows unit representative said, adding that Microsoft is “still targeting January for general consumer availability.”
Heck, the Vista folks probably wouldn’t mind a delay too, but there are some other people who would:
Gartner analyst Michael Silver noted that the delay in Office could hit some businesses hard, particularly those that signed volume license contracts in late 2003. Such Enterprise Agreement or Software Assurance contracts offer, among other things, the right to any new versions of the product that come out over a period of time, typically three years.
“Each month they miss is another group of customers that renewed EA or SA in 2003 that got no new version of Office for their payments,” Silver said. “It was just March when Microsoft emphatically stated that Office 2007 would be on the October price list. Even at close range, they can’t forecast this stuff.”
The Microsoft mantra is that neither product will ship before its time, which is all to the good, if rather more imprecise than one would wish. I doubt that this will make any substantial difference to Microsoft’s financials, but it’s the kind of ego knock that is sometimes harder to take.