In the year since Microsoft released Windows Vista for businesses, customers have stared at an ethereal barrier to adoption—Service Pack 1.
Without the release of the first significant update to the operating system, many consider the software unfinished and refuse to deploy.
"A big psychological blocker inside many large companies is the belief that Microsoft products shouldnt be adopted until after the first major patch or service pack has been released," said Lee Nicholls, global solutions director at Getronics, a workspace management services company. "I see a good deal of companies holding back until they feel the product is stable and fixed."
But Nicholls said he believes there is little merit behind that rationale, as SP1 is nothing more than a simple reliability update that is largely an aggregation of previous updates and releases. Others question whether even SP1 is enough, deciding instead to wait for SP2 or beyond, and still others remain satisfied with Microsoft Windows XP.
Analyst Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group blames Vistas poor corporate adoption to date in part on Microsofts initial strategy of trying to convince businesses that they did not need to wait for a Vista service pack.
"Corporations wait for the first service patch and Microsoft tried to tell them Vista didnt need one," he said. "Given that there was a lot of highly visible breakage with Vista, the Microsoft message didnt take, so businesses went into a Dont call me, Ill call you mode waiting for SP1."
Click here to read about why Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said Vista would spur a wave of innovation.
The same trend was seen with Windows XP, which was a minor release that fixed a number of problems in Windows 2000 and thus flowed in more easily. Even then, the majority of firms waited for SP1, which was released more quickly, Enderle said. "As a major release, Vista had more breakage, which just reaffirmed the SP1 rule."
Read more here about Windows Vista SP1.
Like many other enterprises, Getronics, a multibillion dollar company with some 25,000 employees in more than 25 countries, is moving to Vista as it replaces its existing hardware.
"We do not standardize a great deal on hardware aside from our supplier of choice, Dell. Most of our refresh is proceeding internally as we replace existing equipment. That being said, we have already migrated 2,500 users to Windows Vista. We expect to have complete deployment across our company by the third quarter of 2008," Nicholls said.
One of the most compelling aspects of Vista for Getronics, which prides itself on offering a high level of IT services with very few staff, is the IT labor cost savings it brings. "Were able to save time and effort for image production and maintenance, [and] lessen security risks using technologies such as BitLocker and centrally managing our local firewall settings, without sacrificing the agility and mobility of our work force," Nicholls said.
Businesses are still in no rush to upgrade to Vista. Click here to read more.
But Getronics, a Microsoft Gold Partner, is critical of the software maker for not sufficiently selling the enterprise advantages of Vista.
"Personally, I dont believe Microsoft did a very good job around the launch of Windows Vista in being vocal about its advantages in enterprise environments, or communicating its benefits and enhancements compared to Windows XP. We did not hear a great deal about the IT labor cost savings or the genuine productivity improvements for enterprise based knowledge workers. That story came from Office 2007, which, in contrast, is doing very well indeed," Nicholls said.
Getronics has spent much of the year since Vista launched working to unblock the deployment issues facing organizations. These have mostly been around hardware refresh and application compatibility requirements for the product.
Microsoft executives have often said the companys biggest competitor is previous versions of its own products, a statement Nicholls completely agrees with. "The most difficult conversation of all is when youre facing a well-managed environment running Windows XP SP2 and the customer feels its good enough," he told eWEEK.
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The challenge for Getronics has been to expose the value of the product in this context, and help organizations to understand the answers to the questions of why they should deploy, how to deploy, when to do so and how much it will cost.
"Sometimes its hard as a partner to feel like were not plugging holes and answering questions which Microsoft themselves could have answered early on if theyd focused more heavily on the enterprise value story—the value is there, theres just not been a good solid communication process to educate the industry in general," Nicholls said.
Analyst Enderle agreed, saying that much of the message about Vistas value seemed to surround the products visuals, something that IT did not care about, while the security message just didnt seem that much better than for XP, which also had a huge security focus.
Microsoft recently updated Vistas deployment tools. Click here to read more.
"With XP, they knew why they needed to deploy it, while with Vista they continued to ask why they needed to deploy it for much of this year. This is where Microsofts historically weak marketing organization really hurt the company, but, to be fair, the product also wasnt really ready," he said.
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