SEATTLE -- Microsoft Corp. will delay the consumer release of its new Windows operating system until January 2007, missing the holiday sales season and throwing some PC makers and retailers into turmoil.
The delay in Windows Vista -- caused by Microsoft's needing more time to enhance security and other functions -- will disappoint Microsoft partners who were eager for a new operating system to boost holiday sales.
''It's a much bigger deal for the computer makers than it is for anybody else," said David Smith, a vice president with Gartner Inc.
Windows Vista is Microsoft's first major update to the company's flagship operating system since Windows XP was released in late 2001, meaning partners will be left with a fifth major holiday season without a new version of the operating system to promote.
''It's not the optimal situation, to be launching the next-generation version of Windows right after the big holiday sales season," said analyst Joe Wilcox with Jupiter Research.
A spokesman for Dell Inc. declined to comment on how the delay might affect sales. In a statement released by Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard Co. said it supported Microsoft's decision to make quality a priority in scheduling the operating system's release.
Microsoft will release some versions of the new operating system for big businesses in November as planned, said Jim Allchin, copresident of the Microsoft division that includes Windows.
Wilcox said releasing the system in November to businesses would likely help Microsoft -- since its business sales are highly profitable -- while the delay in the consumer release would be most harmful to its partners.
Allchin said the decision to delay the Vista release came after Microsoft realized that Vista would be completed several weeks later than planned, largely because of efforts to improve security in the new system. Microsoft's Windows operating system has been an immensely popular target of Internet attackers, leading to a major initiative to improve security in all its products.
In an interview, Allchin said he suspects some computer makers may give consumers who buy a new PC during the holidays a way to easily upgrade once Vista becomes available.