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Whistler slipping to 2002?

The grandstanding man from Gartner, he say yes...

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Does Gartner hold an internal contest for the best 'look at me' news hooks to be used for its annual Florida Symposium? If so, competition must have been pretty intense this year. But we think Tom Bittman with his combo 'Whistler will slip to 2002, Microsoft is derailing .NET by not dealing with the DoJ, Microsoft should agree a split into two companies' pitch probably clinched it.

Still, Steve Ballmer's reprise of 'I'm a good sport because I keep coming to these things and they kick the crap out of me' deserves an honourable mention. But Bittman first.

He doesn't seem to have given his entire reasoning for predicting a delay to Whistler, but we're probably talking about the first analyst of spring here. The Whistler first beta has slipped back into November, and it does seem like Microsoft is having trouble getting the UI together properly. Even when it has started to get that under control, it's going to have compatibility problems with existing applications, some of them its own. So there's the breakware problem to deal with.

In previous OS projects Microsoft has repeatedly junked the innovative UI in order to get the product out the door, but that'll be tricky with Whistler because the company has already made too much noise about it, and because without the UI people will start shouting 'service pack' again. So predicting slippage early seems like a reasonable bet for an analyst to make - good shooting, Bittman and you read it here second.

Bittman figures it'll at least slip from Q3 to Q4, and will slide towards Q1 2002. That's a reasonable bet to make too, with little risk attached, as Q4 tends to fuzz into the next year anyway (cf Win2k). He starts to lose it on .NET and the DoJ though.

By not settling, he argues, Microsoft has driven down the stock price and delayed .NET because the way .NET will be packaged will remain undefined while the appeals process is gone through. This reasoning, however, does not work. Elsewhere Steve Ballmer (in between kicks) said Microsoft hadn't done much to prepare for the possibility of breakup, but this is clearly untrue - as reported here, Microsoft has proceeded on the basis that it is not going to be broken up, and has even reorganised its reporting categories in a way that straddles the breakup fault-lines.

As yet there's absolutely no reason why the legal matter should have delayed .NET development. Customers might be leery of buying into .NET while Microsoft's future is up in the air, but as they currently have very little in the way of .NET to buy, aside from a couple of swift repackages, that's not currently relevant.

As far as the stock price is concerned the antitrust action might have some importance, but it's difficult to pin it down. MS stock took a dive when the settlement talks failed (just after poor Rick Sherlund said how well they were going), but the realisation that nothing bad is going to happen for some considerable time ought to have counteracted that by now, and the Supreme Court's refusal to hear the appeal, followed by the appeals court's relatively leisurely schedule, must surely have convinced the market not to worry.

Not about that, anyway. It's legitimate for analysts to worry about Win2k uptake, sagging PC sales (blame the Europeans if you like), and even about the cute pieces of financial engineering that could result in the whole lot coming unpicked if the stock price doesn't start going up again soon. But Dell, Intel and IBM have all come unstuck and, doncha know, none of these has an outstanding antitrust case to answer. IBM got parole, Intel was entirely (surely improbably? - Ed) exonerated. So go figure over why Microsoft's shareholder value doesn't look so good. ®

Related Story:
Whistler public beta slips again - but say hello to Build 2281

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