Why the wait? Here’s why.

In today’s e-mail newsletter from Rob Pegoraro of the Washington Post, he notes that Windows Vista and Office 2007 have released to manufacturing and asks a legitimate question:

Neither of those products will be in stores until next year. Vista will make its retail debut Jan. 30, while Office doesn’t have a date more specific than “early 2007.” (I’d love to know what Microsoft will be doing with this theoretically finished release between now and then: Rewriting help files? Redesigning the box? Picking out ads?)

Here’s the legitimate answer:

Part of the delay is pure logistics. Getting disks pressed, documentation printed, boxes shrink-wrapped, and everything on retail shelves takes time. PC makers need time as well to verify that the final bits work with their hardware and utilities.

But the most important gating factor is waiting for third parties to get drivers and applications ready. Releasing a new Windows version involves a large ecosystem of devices, applications, and utilities. Many of the companies responsible for those products don’t want to release beta versions of their products.

As Microsoft’s Barry Goffe, Director of Windows Client Product Management, told me earlier this month: “Once we RTM, it takes a while for OEMs to write their drivers, build their PCs, and so on. A bunch of [device manufacturers] have deprioritized their driver work because they’re betting we’re going to keep slipping. The best way for them to bump up the priority will be for us to ship. It’s a little dose of reality for these guys.”