There's another issue afoot that should make companies balk at upgrading to Vista to get Windows 7 for free: it's not conducive to maintaining employee productivity.
Windows XP is much different than Windows Vista. Sure, it has the same basic elements as every other Windows operating system, but it's flashy, many of the files that were easy to find in XP aren't so easy to find in Vista, and its User Account Control feature is enough to scare even the most advanced employee away. Companies would need to spend considerable time teaching employees the nuances of Windows Vista. They need to explain to employees that the Windows they've grown accustomed to is gone. They would need to teach them how to maneuver around a new operating system that they simply aren't familiar with. It takes time.
And since it takes time, it doesn't make much sense to do it. By the time employees get comfortable using Vista, the company will be upgrading to Windows 7, forcing them to re-educate employees. So, for the months spanning July through October, productivity will probably be down. In this economy, that's unacceptable.
We also can't forget how much time IT managers will waste by following this strategy. They will need to get new computers, dole those out to employees company-wide, and only then get down to the business of educating employees on the new operating system. Once complete, they'll need to order Windows 7, install it network-wide and then educate employees all over again. It would be a nightmare.
One reason to upgrade to Vista?
There might be one reason why companies would consider upgrading to Windows Vista before they upgrade to Windows 7: the upgrade path.
According to Microsoft, Windows XP users won't have a direct upgrade path to Windows 7. Because of that, companies will be forced to copy files from a Windows XP machine and add them to the new Windows 7 computers.
But those who have Windows Vista installed will have a direct upgrade path. So, when Windows 7 is installed, all the files on the Vista computer will be automatically transferred to the Windows 7 installation. That makes it quite easy.
But is that enough? Of course not.
It is time to upgrade to a new version of Windows. But Windows Vista to Windows 7 isn't the right path to follow. The enterprise should wait for Windows 7 -- and let Microsoft's free upgrade offer pass by.