Slippage

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It’s not a good practice to be late. Showing up an hour behind schedule to pick up your prom date usually results in your promexperience being somewhat less than optimal. But there are ways to soften the blow, like having a good excuse or calling to tell someoneyou’ll be late. A key factor in not having your reputation permanently sullied by tardiness is to not make a habit of it. If you’re pereniallylate, you’ll get labelled a flake. If you’re usually on-time, when you’re late people will tend to empathize with you.

That having been said, two popular OSes announced slips in their release dates this week. Ubuntu was supposed to ship their “Dapper Drake” release in April. The new release date is June 1. Microsoft was supposed to deliver Windows Vista in Q4 this year. That release will now happen in January.

As similar as these stories sound, they show a marked difference in corporate style. And that difference makes an impact on how the public views the tardiness (for that is what it is) of the releases.

Ubuntu has prided itself on a clockwork release schedule. Every six months a new version of Ubuntu Linux comes out of the Canonical, Ltd. cooker and is eagerly gobbled up by the masses. Thus far, the release schedule of Ubuntu Linux has all the drama and unpredictability of a Prussian forced march. In short, Canonical has a reputation for release reliability. So people were shocked when Canonical CEO MarkShuttleworth proposed a six week delay on the official mailing lists. And this week that delay was confirmed and made offcial.

On the other hand, Microsoft first told consumers Vista (codenamed”Longhorn” at the time) would be ready in 2003. Then they slipped that to 2005. Then they slipped to 2006. And this week the date slipped to January 2007.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a Linux user and I have no love for Microsoft. But I’m not a zealot. I’m not an apologist.

But dang, the difference here is night and day.

  • Canonical is known for meeting release dates. Microsoft has done nothing but postpone for five years.
  • Canonical invited users to discuss the issue with their employees so that everyone would understand the reasoning and thus understand that a delay was a good idea. Microsoft makes nebulous claims about “needing time to ensure quality.” Five years wasn’t enough?
  • Speaking of five years, MS last released a new version of Windows in 2001. Canonical last released a new version of Ubuntu in October 2005.
  • The ISVs and IHVs (e.g. Dell) that depend on Microsoft product releases to drive sales, especially during the holiday season, just got reamed by Microsoft. Nice way to make your partners happy, Redmond.

Ten years ago Forbes magazine couldn’t write a negative article about Microsoft if they tried. MS was the Golden Boy of American business. But this week Daniel Lyons writes:

Microsoft can’t afford to screw up like this. There are free alternatives to everything Microsoft sells, like the Linux operating system and the Open Office application suite. Rivals like Novell, RedHat, Sun Microsystems and, yes, IBM are pushing those programs big time. Given Microsoft’s delays I can’t believe open-source stuff still hasn’t caught on for desktop computers. It’s amazing, but people will wait months and months for products that are so complicated that no ordinary person can figure out how to use them.

It’s one thing when competition buries you because they’re simply better. It’s another when your own ineptitude helps make your competition better. And Ubuntu is looking better than anything out of Microsoft these days.