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The channel took in stride Microsoft’s announcement that it is again postponing the release of Vista. VARs, integrators and system builders have grown accustomed to operating system release delays over the years.

Some said they expected no real impact on their businesses, though others expressed some concern about potential sales delays. Vista will replace Microsoft’s current operating system, Windows XP.

Jake Esh, owner of Esh Computer Center, VAR and system builder in Gap and Akron, Pa., said users who follow technology developments closely will likely delay planned PC purchases because of the Vista postponement.

“It does delay sales,” but those delays will affect no more than about 10 percent of his business, he said.

Those customers are home users who want the latest and greatest on their PCs, many of whom like having a new operating system with a new look.

“It’s a little bit like changing the style of a vehicle,” Esh said.

Business customers, which account for at least 70 percent of Esh Computer Center’s revenue, are another story, he said.

Businesses are more concerned about getting solutions that solve their business problems, and they tend to wait to replace operating systems until they have to.

Ray Morton, director of technical services at Daly Computers, Clarksburg, Md., said he expects no impact at all from the Vista postponement.

“I don’t think there’s too many people out there that planned to jump on anything that Microsoft rolled out anyway,” he said.

“Microsoft has a habit of postponing, and customers tend to wait until patches come out, anyway.”

Business customers, he said, are more focused on running their day-to-day business than on what new technology is coming to market.

“People just want to run their businesses,” he said.

“This is business as usual for Microsoft,” said Joe Wilcox, a Microsoft analyst at Jupiter Research.

“Windows Server 2003 was delayed three major times. It had four different ship dates and the name changed three times before it shipped. Meanwhile, Microsoft had server 2000 Advance taking it on the chin over security, and it kept saying ‘Wait for 2003.’ It left VARs trying to sell a Microsoft product with nothing to offer.”

Vista a non-issue for most customers.

In the case of Vista, most customers, unlike IT insiders, are unaware of coming release or aren’t planning for it, said Jeff Kincannon, sales representative at Advantec Computer Systems, Marlborough, Mass.

He said he expects no impact on his business from the Vista postponement. Advantec sells Acer systems as well as laptops and desktops under its in-house brand, Proteon.

“I haven’t had one customer even ask me about the new version of Windows,” said Jim Locke, president of JW Locke and Associates, Pasadena, Calif., a Microsoft Small Business Specialist.

“I think most of them aren’t aware of it, and they are not the kind who jump on the latest and greatest just because it is coming. They can’t afford to make upgrades every year, and many have only recently made the upgrade to XP and Service Pack 2. It will be six months [after release] at least before we see SMBs [small to midsize businesses] show interest in Vista.

Brian Okun, director of strategic partnerships at CHIPS Computer Consulting, Lake Success, N.Y., said the delay is not necessarily bad.

“From our perspective, it’s not so much a delay as it is, ‘Hey, let’s make sure we can get it right,’” he said.

Noting that Microsoft expects to ship the business version of Vista in November, Okun said that at that point business customers can embark on migration projects.

Okun said he believes that unlike in previous releases, when businesses took their time to adopt new OSes, this time Microsoft has done plenty of advance work to accelerate the migration.

Among that work is a toolkit that makes it easier to check application compatibility and reduces the amount of work previously needed in reinstalling third-party applications.

For many in the channel, taking it in stride means keeping an eye on the future.

“We see it as a non-issue,” said Jane Cage, a partner in Heartland Technology Solutions, Joplin, Mo., a Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard partner.

“We are conducting business as usual, making sure that we sell Vista-capable machines with software assurance.”

“It’s possible that Microsoft may have some kind of voucher or technology guarantee for customers during that time in order to keep them buying PCs and then getting a free upgrade later,” said Paul DeGroot, a Microsoft analyst at Directions on Microsoft, Kirkland, Wash.

“That won’t necessarily have a huge impact on Microsoft’s bottom line, since MS will still be paid for the XP Operating Systems that they sell on those computers. I can see OEMs putting pressure on Microsoft to do something to make sure the holiday buying season isn’t a bust.”