By John G. Spooner  |  Posted 2005-11-01 Print this article Print

: No Worries, Mate "> Microsoft officials maintain they arent fazed by the numbers. "We predict adoption of Windows Vista will be the largest and fastest in the history of any operating system weve shipped," said Mike Burk, product manager with the Windows client division. According to Microsofts own projections, when Windows Vista is released, there will be an upgradable installed base of about 200 million PCs; the potential for approximately 500 million new PCs in first 24 months; and long-term growth potential in PCs, driven by escalating demand in emerging markets, demand for advanced wireless, multimedia and security features, and expanded distribution channels, Burk said.
Click here to read eWEEK Labs Vista wishes.
Burk noted that Microsofts OEM business grew by 14 percent in the most-recent quarter, in line with most PC market growth estimates. "We think that the forthcoming releases of Windows Vista and Office 12 [Office is due in the latter half of 2006] will spur significant demand from our customers and create opportunities for Microsoft, our partners and the entire industry," he said. In spite of Microsofts unabashed optimism, when, how and if existing Windows users will upgrade to Vista remain uncertain. Some analysts say that, given the new OS hardware requirements, it might even spark some PC buying. However, its still too soon to tell how much buying could take place, given that Microsoft has yet to reveal the final graphics, memory and processor specifications that will be required for existing PCs to run Vista and how the OS, which offers different user interfaces, will react to them. Instead, the Windows team is offering generalized guidelines, which some users have said are too uncertain to use for planning purposes. Will your PC run Vista? Click here to read more. However, more recently, the company has hinted about specifications for Vista technologies, such as Max, a new user interface the company is offering for Windows XP owners to test. The software giant recommends a 2.4GHz processor, 512MB of RAM, 200MB of free disk space and a graphics card thats capable of handling its Windows Presentation Foundation. That card, the company says in an online FAQ, should be "the fastest PS 2.0 [Pixel Shader 2.0] card with the most memory your bank account can afford. Avoid the low-end cards—such as ATI [Technologies Inc.s Radeon] 9200 and below, nVidia [Corp. GeForce FX] 5200 and below—and go for the high-end [ATI Radeon] X800 or [Nvidia GeForce FX] 6800 if you can afford it." Whereas most corporate PCs use integrated graphics from Intel, which are generally considered to be adequate, but no way near as high in performance as an ATI X800, "I am not sure there will be that many upgrades on the existing hardware," said Michael Cherry, an analyst with the Directions on Microsoft research firm. "It is hard to know how well Vista will run on older hardware," he said. "It is not likely that it would run on hardware still running Windows NT 4.0. Some of the newer computers that customers have bought recently but that are running Windows 2000 may be capable of running Windows Vista, but more than likely, to gain advantage of the new graphics subsystems, and the TPM [Trusted Platform Module or security chip], we could be looking at new computer sales driving most Vista sales." At the same time, Microsofts decision to make some key elements of Vista available for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 users may dampen upgrade enthusiasm. Microsoft is back-porting the Windows Presentation Foundation ("Avalon"), Windows Communication Foundation ("Indigo") and Internet Explorer 7.0—all originally slated to debut as part of Vista only—to older versions of Windows. "One reason Microsoft is taking things out of Vista and making them available for [Windows] XP is probably that the company realized that most customers will be running XP for a long time," Wilcox said. "The more Microsoft makes it available [for Windows XP] the harder it makes it to show customers the benefits of Vista over XP. Im not saying theyre not there, but theyre not as obvious." Jupiter numbers show that for U.S.-based businesses with 250 or more employees, 76 percent run Windows XP Professional. But 51 percent still run Windows 2000 Professional and 29 percent still run Windows NT 4.0. The figures show that, even though Windows XP has been available for more than four years, adoption has been fairly gradual, with companies upgrading to the new OS only in some areas, Wilcox said. There are other factors, many of which are beyond Microsofts control, that could slow the market, Directions on Microsofts Cherry said. They include confusion about 32-bit versus 64-bit hardware and software and what drivers really exist for 64-bit systems, in addition to confusion about the benefits of newer technologies, such as multicore processors and virtualization. "[Some may say,] I dont even want to try to figure out what I should purchase today. [Its] too confusing. Too easy to stay with what I have until the smoke clears, or just buy a Mac," Cherry said. Thus, while it may be uncertain if Vista is in sync with the market or not, Cherry says one thing is clear, right now. "I think Microsoft just wants to get it done," he said. "If possible, I think they would like to get the work done such that OEMs can hit any back to school or holiday sales, but other than that, I dont think they can time it much for anticipated system sales." Check out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.

John G. Spooner John G. Spooner, a senior writer for eWeek, chronicles the PC industry, in addition to covering semiconductors and, on occasion, automotive technology. Prior to joining eWeek in 2005, Mr. Spooner spent more than four years as a staff writer for CNET, where he covered computer hardware. He has also worked as a staff writer for ZDNET News.

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