Ballmer should take blame for OS delay

Last month saw Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer give a masterclass in corporate responsibility: when a reporter asked him if a pending lawsuit from security firm Symantec would delay the Vista operating system, he replied “Ultimately, I am the CEO. I am accountable.”

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By  Peter Branton Published  June 4, 2006

|~|comment66body.jpg|~|Microsoft CEO Ballmer has assumed responsibility for any Vista delay.|~|Last month saw Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer give a masterclass in corporate responsibility: when a reporter asked him if a pending lawsuit from security firm Symantec would delay the Vista operating system, he replied “Ultimately, I am the CEO. I am accountable.” Bold words. Unfortunately, he rather spoiled the effect by spending most of the rest of the month fudging as to whether there would — or wouldn’t — be a delay, and if there was, just whose fault it would be. Ballmer’s initial statement had been given at a press conference in Beijing, China, where he was on a press tour to launch the second beta of Vista (the next generation of Microsoft’s flagship Windows operating system, for those two readers who didn’t know). At that time, he expressed confidence that Symantec’s lawsuit would not have any impact on Vista’s January launch date, despite the fact that Symantec is seeking an injunction to stop Microsoft from using key technology in the product (see IT Weekly 27 May - 2 June 2006). If the machinations of the legal system could not stop Vista launching, then however, user feedback just might, Ballmer suggested just a few days later. On May 25, in Tokyo, Japan, this time, Ballmer told (presumably extremely surprised) reporters that “The other thing, frankly, which we are discussing with NEC and other hardware partners is when would they really like it [Vista] — early January, late January, February — so it depends on when the next roll-over, the next turn of the machine cycle will be.” Now, if the question of when Vista launches is really down to the “hardware partners” the likely answer would have been “in plenty of time for us to have it in the shops for Christmas this year”, which would rule out any of the dates Ballmer was suggesting as desirable. Unfortunately for the hardware partners, Microsoft has already admitted that it has no chance of doing that, having already pushed the Vista release date back to January next year. By now acknowledging that it may not hit January either, Ballmer could be said to be just rubbing salt into the wounds of a few of its partners. But, he has been at pains to tell everybody, it is all about ensuring quality of product. According to this line of thinking, if the second beta reveals problems with Vista then it is of course acceptable to delay the launch of the product again, in order to ensure that those problems are sorted out. Which is, of course, the point of conducting beta testing and all sounds perfectly reasonable. However, it conveniently ignores the fact that the aim is to hold beta tests in good time before a product launch, so that any such problems can be ironed out quickly — without impacting on users. Microsoft — for whatever reason — hasn’t done that, and as we all now know, there is only one person who is accountable for that. Step forward Steve Ballmer, and if there is a large delay to Vista, we know who to blame. ||**||

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