In July, Microsoft not only announced the official name of its next operating system (previously named "Longhorn," now called "Vista"), but also shipped its first beta release of the software. Therefore, now is a good time to talk about how Vista will alter the role of business intelligence.

While the trade press has had a field day documenting Longhorn's delivery slippages, it has not always explained why. In the 1990s, Microsoft spent its time merging its OS code base - combining its DOS and Windows NT-based architectures into one. After completing that standardization work, Microsoft shifted from thinking tactically to thinking strategically about its OS - and Vista is the result. Major chunks of the OS have been rebuilt to enable new capabilities - and that has taken time.

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