How to Sell a Vista Upgrade to Your Boss: We asked how companies are planning to cost-justify an upgrade to Vista. Microsoft Watch readers answered.
The Contrary View: Why You Shouldn't Advocate a Vista Upgrade: Not surprisingly, not everyone is jumping joyfully over Vista's imminent arrival. Readers share some of their Vista qualms and fears.
Learning to Crawl: How Microsoft Plans to Attract Absolute Beginners to Its Tools: Microsoft's Express tools are aimed at hobbyists and non-professional programmers. But the Redmondians have their sights set on an even less-CS-skilled audience.
How to Sell a Vista Upgrade to Your Boss
"What Is the Business Case for Vista?" I asked in one of my Microsoft Watch columns last week. Boy, did I get an earful!
Microsoft Watch Wonders: What Is the Business Case for Vista?
What spurred this column was an instant-messaging convo I had recently with an IT pro, who asked me how Microsoft was planning to make any kind of TCO/ROI (total cost of ownership/return on investment) case for Vista, given that most, if not many, businesses will need to upgrade not just their software, but their hardware, too, in order to run Vista.
I asked readers: "I'm curious to hear from other IT professionals how – and if – you are planning to cost justify Vista to your bosses. What do your TCO calculations look like right now? Or are you just digging your head in the sand, hoping to keep your users on Windows XP, Windows 2000 or some older Windows variant until you can find that Mac or Linux sysadmin job you've always wanted?"
The responses have poured in, fast and furiously. I've selected some of the more insightful excerpts to share. Whether you are looking for ideas as to how to sell your boss on Vista – or tips on how to sway your superiors against Vista, here are some tips from readers.
From a reader (who sounds like a Microsoft marketing guy in sheep's clothing) who requested anonymity:
"I am an IT decision maker for an agency of over 4000 users, so I would consider my deployment a medium sized rollout. I am sending this email from my windows Vista test machine, which is a 64bit AMD box installed as a 32bit Vista machines due a lack of 64bit driver availability which also is running Office 2007.
"Let's explore why an upgrade makes sense to us:
"Compatibility: Windows vista is about to become the core supported OS application for Microsoft desktops. In such, venders across the world are now or will soon be actively engaging in development to support this platform.
"Security: Security is a huge deal today. Companies have lost multi-million dollar clients over accidental breaches in security via uneducated user installations of BHO's , Trojans, and other viral compromises. This does not even address the nightmare of a lost corporate laptop (too many to reference in the past 9 months in the national news).
"Hardware: Our organization is on a 4 year hardware lifecycle program. This allows us to defray costs, reducing TCO through rotation of lower power platforms to users with lower end requirements, while continuing to rotate high end hardware to our power users. Since we purchase 4 year warranties, our out of pocket costs for parts are low. Further, we reduce our total number of custom hardware images to 4 or 5 for each supported year.
"Software Costs: Our enterprise license agreement allows us to upgrade upon RTM release. Our organization long ago realized the added value to controlling licensing costs through this method. So, from an increased software or upgrade license cost perspective, there are no additional costs to our organization, while a requirement to upgrade after 12 months of RTM."
From another reader, who also asked not to be named:
"First of all, previous version of Office, such as XP and 2003, will run
on Vista without issue. As will most all other popular applications.
"Secondly, Vista runs just fine on downlevel networks such as 2000 and 2003. No need to upgrade your domain to Longhorn...not that you can foranother year or so anyway.
"Lastly! The main hardware component most businesses are going to need to upgrade to run Vista is Memory. From my experience of testing Vista over the last year or so, most PC's over 1GHz with 1GB RAM will run Vista just fine. Yes, an onboard Video card will not display the cool stuff, but it will work...as good, speedwise, as XP. So spend $50 on a decent card!!! NOT $1500 on a new system. Take you pick of Video cards!!!
"But frankly speaking, if a successful business is running systems <</p>
>1GHz < 512GB RAM, <40GB drives. They are seriously outdated by a few generations and need to get with the program. Most all businesses that I deal with are well above that level. RAM upgrades from 512 to 1GB and maybe a new Video card is all they need. $150 should do it. I agree that this is a lot of money if you are a corporation upgrading 100k desktops. But that is the exception, not the rule."
Russell Wilson, and I'm currently an Independent Systems Consultant for his own company, Apex-Trinity Design, had this to say: "All too often, end-users, as well as businesses as a whole, rely on over-priced PC makers. Companies such as Dell and HP make excellent systems, however they also figuratively rip off their consumers. That being said, I'm currently running Vista 5536, on a personally built PC (that I might add cost me roughly $1,200) with a 5.0 User Experience rating, and from my end, very, very good performance. I'm almost amazed at the difference between Beta 2 and this more recent build. Of course, we're not really focusing on end-users right now, but the corporate business plan.
"Perhaps this is a time where companies should take a step back and try to figure out why, exactly, they're paying so much for technology that is continually getting cheaper and cheaper." A chief information security officer, who asked not to be named, weighed in with this advice:
"It seems to me that with each and every major release of OS from Microsoft we've questioned the value proposition and the ROI yet we jump.You can give Microsoft credit for one thing that Novell never learned. You don't make money supporting old products like Netware 3.X.
Regarding the hardware investment I see hardware as a non issue. Certainly Vista will not run well on legacy PC'S however any IT organization worth its weight has been spending some time analyzing the potential impacts on Vista. In our case we refresh every 48 months. PC'S purchased in the last 24 months can likely run Vista with a minimal investment in RAM as most of our systems shipped with 1GB of RAM. All of our 2007 refresh computers will be Vista ready….
"If you take hardware out of the equation, because that issue has existed with each major OS upgrade since the beginning of time, you now come to the value proposition of a more stable OS, better security (yet to be determined) and features. In our case Bit Blocker will likely replace our existing disk encryption product as all of our Laptops are come with TPM modules. Therefore I can quantify an immediate savings that I can relate to upper management that ties to a security improvement that is standard across the board. Organizations will have to look at the feature set to determine the true value for them. But hardware requirements will only be a short term blip on the radar screen with Vista."
The Contrary View: Why You Shouldn't Advocate a Vista Upgrade
Not everyone sees the Vista business case as a slam-dunk. Read on for some opposing views:
Ian Beyer, Network Administrator with the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, had this to say:
"I'm the network administrator for a large church (so, we're in the nonprofit realm for licensing), and most of the hardware we're buying in the current upgrade cycle is tagged as "designed for vista" (and these are sub-$1000 machines, Dell GX620).
"Our main obstacle to rolling out Vista and Office 2007 is the sharp learning curve associated with the new UIs - Even those of us who are technically inclined that have been using the betas for a while are having some difficulty finding where Microsoft has hidden some of the key functions of Office and the OS. In the IT department, this is going to translate into high training costs.
"Our plan at this point is probably going to be to adopt a wait-and-see approach, and wait until Vista and Office 2007 have seen mainstream adoption in the consumer space - this approach paid off huge in our adoption of XP (we still have about 1/3 of our desktops on Windows 2000 due to the upgrade cycle and using the OEM license rather than getting naked machines and using Charity Open License)
"My biggest concern with regards to Vista is trying to guess from a budgetary standpoint what licensing quirks Microsoft is going to throw at us with this next release cycle - their decision to restructure Terminal Services licensing in 2003 Server has been a major barrier to our adoption of the 2003 server platform."
Mark Roberson, IT Director with Restaurant Management Company, said his general policy is "DO NOT UPGRADE."
"I have been an IT director for quite a few years now and my policy has always been the same. Do not upgrade. I say this for both OS and office products. We usually try to get 5 years out of our desktops, 4-5 out of laptops. When I replace the hardware is when we upgrade to the current OS and office. OEM has always been cheaper than upgrades. I have ran IT departments supporting anywhere from 700 computers to 5,000 and have never seen a business case that justifies the upgrade. The 5 year time frame usually means we jump a version, but it has always been more cost effective.
"Most of the (Vista) enhancements are around security or video/audio. I don't want our staff playing videos better. We struggle a little with security but do get by. I am still waiting on the enhancement that makes me type faster in my word processor or the accountants enter data into our systems quicker. All of the business cases seem to help the IT department, when do we see a business case that helps accounting, hr or really does reduce the headcount in IT?
"What needs to happen is slow down in desktop upgrades and get the rest of the word into this millennium."
Gary Keramidas, President of Service Consultants, also is none too bullish about the kinds of features Microsoft is emphasizing in Vista, he said:
"I have about a hundred xp business seats out there. one way i can make money is to sell the upgrades to my clients. but, my conscious won't allow me to do that because i am just not impressed at all with vista, yet. i don't need or want glitz.
"too much screen flashing, when uac launches and accepted, when windows mail loads. too much wasted space between desktop icons. icons way too large. windows mail doesn't highlight my watched posts correctly and there's too much wasted space between messages.
"i still disable uac (User Account Control) right after installing vista….windows mail search is the best thing i've seen in it.
"about all i see is glitz, which doesn't do anything for getting tasks
accomplished. when i'm using office, quickbooks, a db program, outlook express, i could care less how a window closes, if the title bar is transparent or if i can make an icon 2 inches big.
Nick Kirby of niknet, (www.niknet.co.uk), said Vista isn't really reflective of many users' wants and needs.
"I find it annoying that MS seem not to have listened to what people actually want. Vista's explorer is awkward, cramped and pointless. The XP one is better due to simple clarity. I cannot help but think that Microsoft should have added things people actually want – for example being able to change the colour of folders so one is blue, another red, green etc. A way to turn off the "shortcut to…" thing and that arrow, turning off completely the pop up balloons (we do this through a script), changing the help system so it is actually helpful and relevant, fixing the driver mess so only signed drivers work, protecting the core OS files from alteration, having a system backup based upon virtual PC images, a one click local update server system – the list goes on into oblivion.
"I don't want to bash Microsoft. Heck, Linux is so stupid it's a wonder people don't laugh at it, but there's no reason at all to downgrade to Vista. No business case, no productivity improvement – which will actually fall sharply initially – encryption is already there through hardware. What if the MS implementation decides to crash, or has the inevitable security flaws in it, locks away critical files forever, or, more likely, until a hacker gets hold of the laptop and a person loses information and money? Will MS reimburse them for that loss? What if it's a government who, in a fit of ineptitude lose an MOD machine? Will MS make reparations for the millions that info costs? "
Learning to Crawl: How Microsoft Plans to Attract Absolute Beginners to Its Tools
In the little corner of our minds where we're not obsessing over Vista, we're thinking about Express, Microsoft's family of tools designed for hobbyists and other "non-professional programmers."
Microsoft Pushes Express to the Masses
In a recent meeting with Dan Fernandez, lead product manager for Visual Studio Express, we learned an interesting little factoid:
"In the next six months, Microsoft will launch an absolute beginner's Web site," Fernandez told your trusty Microsoft Watcher. "This will be a learning-to-crawl site."
Check Out Fernandez's Blog
Very interesting. Microsoft is really looking to expand its market for tools in the coming weeks/months/years. What do you bet this is where Visual Studio "Tuscany" (a k a Visual Studio Live) comes into play?
Refresher: Code Name 'Tuscany'
We'll be watching to see how this one goes...
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