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Microsoft's Vista not yet in sight

Middle East users will have to wait until February for the software giant's new operating system.

Across Europe and the US, computer stores are planning to stay open until past midnight on January 30 so that eager consumer users have a chance to get their hands on Windows Vista straight away. The first major version of the Windows operating system (OS) launched for over five years, Vista may not have them queuing around the block - as Windows 95 did when it was launched - but retailers are still confident that buyers will brave the January weather to get their hands on a copy.

Here in the Middle East, however, Microsoft has yet to so much as set a date for when it will actually release the OS to consumers - a local spokesperson suggested that mid-February was the most likely timeframe.

While a delay of a couple of weeks is hardly likely to be significant on a product that was officially meant to ship in the second half of last year, this further delay on regional availability still seems a little surprising.

Bahaa Issa, marketing and communications manager for Microsoft Gulf, said the decision to delay the launch until later in February reflected "other events that are happening in the region" and was also due to requests by some - although not all - of the firm's hardware partners to have more time to prepare.

"We wanted to make sure that when we launched our partners and hardware makers were ready," he said, adding that the press launch for Vista is more likely to be in the first week of February anyway.

It is debatable what impact any such delay will have - the majority of business and consumer customers do not buy a new OS straight away. An IT Weekly poll last year found that 45% of respondents had no current plans to upgrade to Vista, with 27% saying they would only do so in their next PC replacement cycle.

Those regional users who do want to upgrade earlier will also not be able to immediately take advantage of various online programmes Microsoft is running to allow multiple upgrades or Vista licence purchases.

While the firm said this week that Vista buyers will be able to upgrade to higher-level versions of the OS straight away, Windows XP users will not be able to upgrade online to Vista - at least not initially.

Windows Anytime Upgrade will allow Vista users to upgrade an existing edition of the firm's Windows OS to a higher-grade edition online, once Vista launches in the region; users who have a physical copy of the Vista OS disc will be able to buy an internet product ‘key' and use it to upgrade to one of the other versions on the disc.

Anytime Upgrade will not, however, be immediately available to allow Windows XP users here to upgrade via the purchase of a product key and then an online download or via the delivery of CDs by a Microsoft distributor. Microsoft claims to be working on some form of online "options" relating to XP upgraders, but no concrete details were available as IT Weekly went to press.

Microsoft is also working closely with Etisalat to fix another embarrassing glitch - some users of the operator's Al Shamil broadband service will not be able to use Vista to surf online as some hardware supplied with the service does not support it.

Issa pointed out that the problem only applies to certain users, as it is only with certain modems that Etisalat supplies that the problem occurs. A similar situation arose with the launch of XP, Issa said, and Microsoft's and Etisalat's technical teams were able to fix it comparatively quickly then.

Better news for Microsoft is that it will have an Arabic version of Vista available as soon as it launches the English one - welcome news for users who have had to endure long delays in the past before products are made available in their language.

But for those users who have been waiting impatiently for Vista, the wait will have to go on - at least for a little while longer.

“We wanted to make sure that when we launched our partners and hardware makers were ready.”
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