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Microsoft’s slow-motion train wreck

Microsoft’s acknowledgement this week that Windows Server 2008 (Longhorn) won’t   release to manufacturing till early next year  surprised very few people.

The company started the RTM/ship wiggle last year when the official word went from the server would be generally available by year’s end to the server would be released to manufacturing by year’s end.

Anyone who’s watched the company for more than a month knows that’s the beginning of the drip, drip, drip of a bad news being prepped and leaked bit by bit. Only it’s not really bad news for customers, who hate upgrades. It is, however, bad news for beleaguered Microsoft partners who always want new bits to sell and may be sick of talking about upcoming wares to customers only to not have anything new to sell or implement.

Face it, the Longhorn launch has been a slow-motion train wreck going back well on four  years. Remember all the PDC 2003 promises? Microsoft hopes you don’t.

Since that time the promised WinFS storage-unification-extravaganza has been promised, repromised, nuked, and reborn as a more incremental vision; the server and client were split up, the client ended up as a big-fat-tub-o’-goo albeit with a nice interface. And the server? Well the server still ain’t here.

One long-time New York area database-and-tools partner sounds weary when he discusses it. He chalks the mega-if-phantom launches to marketing realities. “They need to get the most out of their marketing buck,” says he. Who really cares if what they’re trying to market has been discussed to death for the previous three years? (Ok, that last bit is from me.)

The really funny thing is that, as some expectedthe company may actually have very little to launch at its super-duper-mega-big-bang launch February 27.

Back in July, COO Kevin Turner promised “the biggest enterprise launch” in company history from the stage at the worldwide partners conference. That would be SQL Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008, and Windows Server 2008. All to sally forth from the same
Los Angeles stage. Only even then it wasn’t true. Follow up interviews quickly uncovered that not even Microsoft was promising that SQL Server would be available at that time

For the record, Microsoft says SQL Server 2008 is still on for GA in the second quarter of next year. Let’s just say June. The official word on Visual Studio 2008 (Orcas) still seems to be availability at the end of this calendar year, although it’s been pretty quiet (TOO quiet) on that front for a while now.

So, it’s conceivable that on its “biggest ever enterprise launch” day Microsoft will actually have nothing to launch. “That’s pretty low, even by their standards,” says one long-time industry watcher.

Oh well. Maybe next launch.

Barbara Darrow, a Boston-area journalist, can be reached at 

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