We all make disparaging comments about sales and marketing folks when these kinds of things happen, but more often than not, when a promise isn't kept it's not their fault; they are just the messenger. Vendors are not purposely making stuff up just to get your business; at least that kind of thing doesn't happen very often in my experience. What they are doing is providing the most hopeful information that they get from people in development on both the hardware and software side. Perhaps more caution is warranted on the part of vendors, but there are nonetheless things you can do to protect yourself.
The big issue for end users and purchasers is figuring out what the warning signs are that a vendor is not going to make a release schedule for software or hardware. I have noticed some common signs over the years for when a schedule is close to reality and when it's not even close. It's somewhat of an art, but there are some telltale signs you can learn to spot.
Of course, over the last couple of years, almost every vendor has had one or more product schedule that slipped because of the economic downturn; it's not fair to hold vendors to a pre-collapse schedule. For recessions such as 2008, 2000 or 1990, you should reset your expectations. But there are a few factors to consider the rest of the time (and some that might be good warning signs before a downturn hits). They include:
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