Consumer Windows Vista Delayed

Update: Mike asks, why didn’t Microsoft simply offer free upgrades to users who would buy computers in the holiday season, instead of announcing delays? My theory is that they are not too confident that they can actually ship the product and get all the kinks worked out in time – or anytime soon! Okay that was just a mean joke.
Microsoft Corp just released a press release outlining the Windows Vista update schedule which confirms a delay consumer version of the Vista software by almost six months. The consumer launch of Windows Vista operating system was supposed to happen in the second half of 2006, but Microsoft will now ship this in January 2007.

….is on target to go into broad consumer beta to approximately 2 million users in the second quarter of 2006. Microsoft is on track to complete the product this year, with business availability in November 2006 and broad consumer availability in January 2007.

This could really put the chill on the PC industry, which has been counting on a Vista driven upgrade cycle. They say that the corporate version of the OS will ship on time. I wonder if that really means anything, given that corporate buyers are notoriously slow upgraders. What I find highly amusing, as pointed out by Paul Kedrosky, that a week ago Steve Ballmer was claiming Vista 2H 2006. What happened?
Of course, this is also a sign of a company which is fighting many wars (not battles) on many fronts, struggling to gain ground against rivals as diverse as Apple, Google, and Nokia. At some point the company will have to regroup and make some key and painful strategic decisions. Meanwhile, the blog party continues at Mix 06.
Update: The crisis is bigger than it seems. There has been a management shake-up, and according to WSJ, Steven Sinofsky, 40 years old, and a Microsoft veteran has been brought in. He served as Bill Gates technical assistant, and till today was one of the big wheels at Microsoft’s Office group.

Microsoft’s Office group is known for a more disciplined management style, and has tended to pump out new products on a timely, predictable schedule. By contrast, the Windows group has always valued engineering prowess over management oversight.