Microsoft’s announcement last week that it would delay the planned release of some versions of Windows Vista -- those aimed at consumers and small businesses -- won’t adversely affect the plans of most large corporations. That's primarily because few planned to roll out Vista aggressively.

“No surprise,” Marc West, CIO at H&R Block said about the delay. The company has 120,000 PCs throughout its thousands of tax preparation branch offices running either Windows 2000 or XP. According to West, H&R Block had no plans to upgrade to Vista until 2009, at the earliest.

“Given the current state of XP, it is wise for them to go for a higher quality and more security-tested product versus rushing for a deadline and having problems that diminish the opportunity to gain market attention [and] happy customers,” he said.

Another user, Steven Naylor, vice president and director of IT at FHLBank, said he plans to stick to existing plans and hold off any upgrade to Vista until after Microsoft's first service pack is released.

“For most companies, this slip will not be an issue, because it will take them 18 months for testing and planning before they can start deploying Windows Vista anyway. Companies should have been planning for 2008 deployment anyway," said Michael Silver, an analyst at Gartner.

"Microsoft could slip the business editions into 2007 without a big impact on what most companies would do, and that’s certainly possible," he said. "The Home editions were really the more important ones to get out this year. Once they miss Christmas, slipping again has fewer ramifications.”

Both Gartner and Forrester Research had released reports last year predicting that enterprise uptake of Windows Vista would be sluggish, just as it was with Windows XP. Forrester, for instance, said in December that its surveys indicated that only a third of big business users planned to start deploying Vista when it became available -- or even by the time Microsoft releases the Service Pack 1 update, which typically takes a year or so. About 20 per cent of users in Forrester’s July 2005 survey of 56 large companies said they had no plans to upgrade to Vista at all.

Microsoft will continue to release Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Enterprise to volume-licensing customers in November. The four consumer editions of Vista, while still being released to manufacturing in November, won’t arrive installed in PCs on store shelves until January -- after the important holiday shopping season. Jim Allchin, co-president of the company’s platform and services division, announced the delay late yesterday, saying that the company wants to ensure that the operating system is solid and secure before releasing it.

Microsoft also said that retail sales of new PCs are actually higher in January than in December.

Even enterprises with speedier rollout plans said the consumer-version shipping delay doesn’t affect their rollout plans.

“The Microsoft announcement does not adversely affect us,” said Robert Fort, director of IT at Los Angeles-based music retailer Virgin Entertainment Group. Virgin has about 500 PCs serving as in-store point-of-sale terminals and kiosks running a combination of Windows 2000, Windows Embedded for Point of Service and an old IBM “green screen” operating system. The retailer is part of Microsoft’s early Technology Adopter Program and “will continue to follow its timeline,” Fort said.