What Is the Business Case for Upgrading to Vista?

By Mary Jo  |  Posted 2006-08-31

With Windows Vista, Microsoft needs to please at least two constituencies with very different sets of requirements.

The Redmondians need to pack the next version of Windows with lots of bells and whistles that will appeal to consumers whom it is hoping to convince to upgrade. And it must do the same for business customers. I think Microsoft may have a tougher time making the business upgrade case than the home one for Vista. Here's why.

One enterprise user, who asked not to be named, recently posed an interesting question to me (via instant-messaging), regarding how Microsoft is expecting to make a business case for Vista.

MR. Biz: how are they going to make a business case for Vista?
MJF: that's a good question…. I'm not really sure
MR. Biz: no matter how much tweaking MS does, it's still not going to solve the resource requirements issue
MR. Biz: the 3D desktop should have been part of Plus
MR. Biz: vista will NEVER run on a $1000 PC
MR. Biz: maybe a $1500 PC, but that one doesn't exist Yet
MR. Biz: there aren't cheap dual cores yet

MR. Biz: price point is still around $2000
MJF: u are right
MR. Biz: basic users don't need this
MR. Biz: corporate users don't need this
MR. Biz: the corps are gonna scream bloody Murder
MR. Biz: they can't afford to put $2000+ desktops on each desk
MR. Biz: and buy all new copies of office to run on It
MR. Biz: what we're talking about is a TCO of about $3000 per desktop
MR. Biz: maybe even more than that
MR. Biz: that's before support costs
MR. Biz: that's just the damn software and hardware
MR. Biz: even if they leave the server infrastructure the same
MR. Biz: which really, they can't
MR. Biz: so I bet its more like $5000 a desktop
MR. Biz: never before has a windows release required such a major pill to swallow
MJF: good points

As you can see, it was kind of tough for me to get a word in edgewise. Once MR. Biz started thinking the Vista total-cost-of-ownership (TCO) equation through, he got a tad agitated. And he got me thinking.

It's a given that Microsoft is planning to tout security, reliability, improved system-management and increased cost and operational efficiencies as major Vista business benefits.

"For the IT professional, Windows Vista is easier to deploy, and less expensive to maintain, than any earlier version of Windows. And for your end users, Windows Vista's improved performance and reliability add value by allowing people to be more effective while performing their jobs," reads the copy promoting an upcoming Vista Virtual Lab.

Microsoft also is likely to downplay the need for massive desktop hardware upgrades, touting the Vista Classic/Basic mode as a way for companies to circumvent the need for the fairly hefty hardware requirements. (For a "Vista Premium" system running Aero, a minimum of a 1 GHz 32-bit processor; 1 GB of system memory; 128 MB of graphics memory; a DirectX 9-class GPU and 40 GB of hard-disk space.)

Microsoft wouldn't talk TCO specifics. I asked. A spokeswoman said to expect the company to share details later this fall, in the post-Release-Candidate-1 (RC1) timeframe. Vista RC1 is expected to go to more than two million testers as early as next week.

In the interim, Vista Product Manager Mike Burk did offer some limited guidance.

"Vista can positively impact a company's direct and indirect costs," he said. (Direct, in this case, is hardware, parts and depreciation; indirect is support; troubleshooting; specific configurations, etc..) "Vista will require fewer support calls. It will be easier to manage. It will have better deployment tools."

Is that enough? I queried another business user who has been quite bullish about Microsoft, in general, and Vista, in particular. He's planning for a fairly significant Vista deployment in the relatively near term and has been testing just about every Vista build that Microsoft has made available.

"We are using things like BitLocker (encryption) for protecting data, and the security enhancements throughout the OS. So it's an easy sell" to management, said this user, who also asked not to be named.

"As for the hardware, we've been planning for that for a while with Vista in mind. We've been telling our people to hold off from buying new machines," knowing that Vista – with its more substantial requirements -- would eventually come down the pike.

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?

Talk back below or write me at mswatch@ziffdavis.com and

let me know what you think.

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