Users relaxed at delays on the road to Memphis

Reports that the successor to Microsoft Windows 95, code-named Memphis, may ship a bit later than expected might have raised eyebrows on Wall Street, but don't appear to have disappointed users.

Reports that the successor to Microsoft Windows 95, code-named Memphis, may ship a bit later than expected might have raised eyebrows on Wall Street, but don't appear to have disappointed users.

After press reports of a Memphis delay, Microsoft's stock slumped Monday, recovering slightly yesterday.

But at the end-user level it seems that there is hardly a stampede to upgrade to Memphis.

"A lot of my clients, which include big and small companies, are still using Win 3.11, so I don't see anyone marching for Memphis anytime soon," says Donald Kraft, an independent computer consultant. "For big companies, it's such a major effort to make an operating systems upgrade that I don't think anyone's going to be disappointed that an upgrade is going to be late by six or seven months - and for really small companies or individuals, they often just take whatever comes bundled on a machine and stick with it for a long time."

Doug Lidster, electronic publishing coordinator at August Home Publishing Co., says he is more concerned with Microsoft "getting it right" than "getting it out on time."

"Windows 95 works very well," Lidster says. "August Home is still running mostly on Windows 3.1. I am implementing 95 by groups."

Michael Lindsay, a research director at KPMG in Denver, says he only got Windows 95 at work six months ago, so a delay does not bother him.

"It won't change my life if Microsoft is one or two months late," Lindsay says.

Analyst Tom Rhinelander of Forrester Research, estimates that 80% of corporate clients haven't even upgraded to Windows 95 but are still using Windows 3.1.

"The corporate users would actually probably like it [the Memphis delay] because they haven't digested Windows 95 or Windows NT, so the slip isn't a bad thing at all for them," Rhinelander says. Consumer users won't really be bothered by the delay, since the biggest new selling point of Memphis is that the interface will be linked to the Internet Explorer 4.0 browser, and consumers might not be ready for that or care about it, he says.

Of concern to at least one corporate user is Microsoft's delays in releasing Viper - code name for the Transaction Server now out in a limited release - and Falcon, code name for a forthcoming message-oriented middleware product.

"The bigger problem is not that Windows 97 is late, but that the infrastructure components are late," says Clive Castle, the London-based head of applications architecture at Union Bank of Switzerland. "The middleware is more important to us than another version of the OS - the current one is good enough."

For some companies evaluating which products to use as they move to more Internet and intranet-based computing, the delay in Memphis will provide some breathing room. For example, Dan Grosz, director of information systems for the Timberland Co., is currently looking at products from Microsoft, Netscape, IBM-Lotus, and Oracle in this regard.

"It's a little bit of a relief. It gives us a little more time," Grosz says of the apparently slipping ship date.

The delay will also give some latitude to developers, such as Mike Francis, director of The Practice Engine Co. Ltd. in Hereford, England, which develops database applications for small firms.

"I'm not surprised at all that Windows 97 will be late," Francis says. "Companies often set release dates which aren't practical realities." He said he almost prefers that Windows 97 - as Memphis may be called depending on its release date - is late because he will have to support it and develop products for it, which could be expensive and time-consuming.

"However, I would rather that Microsoft hang back instead of releasing a product with rubbish code," Francis said.

Meanwhile, Microsoft itself is denying that Memphis is technically late, since, as a spokeswoman points out, the company has never actually promised a specific ship date. "1997 is a goal, but again they're aiming to have a stable product," said spokeswoman Cara Walker. Still, she confirmed that Microsoft has begun telling OEMs that they are unlikely to receive the final product in time to bundle it on new PCs for the 1997 Christmas shopping season, as the manufacturers typically require the software in July or August for the holiday selling season.

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