The news, announced Wednesday evening, generated little initial concern from solution providers and system builders, which are preparing for general availability of those products on Jan. 30.
"It doesn't surprise or concern me. I am assuming this will be retail [stock-keeping unit], which system builders rarely sell," said Steve Bohman, vice president of operations at Columbus Micro Systems, a Columbus, Ohio-based system builder. "Windows Marketplace will compete with the big-box retailers."
Microsoft partners said the 2.5-Gbyte Vista code takes up to four hours to download over a high-speed Internet line and is aimed at consumers, not businesses. And relatively few users have enough horsepower or graphics capabilities on their existing PCs to support Vista or Office 2007, they said.
The policy signals Microsoft's full transition to electronic software distribution (ESD) methods. Though that currently means little to partners and system builders, which provide Windows and Office to businesses via licenses or through new PC purchases, some worry this direct relationship will eventually erode partners' influence and relationships with their customers.
Microsoft said most versions of Vista and Office 2007 would be available via Windows Marketplace, including the non-enterprise business versions of those products. The list includes Windows Vista Business, Windows Vista Home Basic, Windows Vista Home Premium, Windows Vista Ultimate, Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007, and Microsoft Office Professional 2007.
Windows Marketplace gives Microsoft a direct online relationship with customers and an opportunity to offer incentives to customers to buy and access solutions directly -- and bypass channel partners, according to some solution providers. Partners expressed outrage when Microsoft announced last year that it would allow customers, including small and midsize businesses, to easily upgrade to higher-end versions of Vista and Office by purchasing license keys online from Microsoft. The Windows Anytime program, and now Windows Marketplace, will erode the role of the channel over time, industry observers said.
Microsoft executives declined to be interviewed for this article. A company spokeswoman, however, issued a statement to CRN insisting the program won't impact channel partners. And Microsoft said it will offer Vista and Office 2007 at the suggested retail price.
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