Common Sense on Vista Adoption

Opinion: Let's get ready for the usual routine: No matter how good Vista is, corporate adoption will be very slow, and for good reason.

Every time a new version of Windows comes out we dance the same dance about adoption rates. Microsoft promises large benefits to its enterprise customers. ISVs gear up support. Advocates for alternative operating systems talk about how this will be the version that gives them their foot in the door.

With Vista its basically the same, if a little more tense. The most important advances in Vista are security-related, and the security ISVs are mostly mad about changes in Vista that will restrict their freedoms.

The case for corporate adoption of Vista is strong. The security improvements alone are compelling, especially on mobile systems. Microsoft has vastly improved the deployment tools for enterprises and Active Directory management is stronger than ever.

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But businesses cant change operating systems that quickly. It would be crazy for them to try, especially for something like a Windows upgrade where its possible to move incrementally. The hardware costs, the training costs, the downtime for IT staff from other regular tasks, the disruption to software configuration and a dozen other reasons argue against moving quickly.

What makes sense is to roll out Vista on a group or departmental basis as hardware is upgraded. This makes more sense than ever with Vista, since the hardware requirements are likely to exceed the capabilities of the average installed business desktop, especially one running Windows 2000.

The complaints about Windows Vista breaking applications are as exaggerated as most of the other complaints, but theyre on the right track. One reader said that more than 50 percent of applications dont work on Vista. I very much doubt this, but Im sure every large company has some, perhaps many, custom programs that run afoul of Vistas emphasis on limited user accounts.

Adapting applications to this new reality will take time, although its time that should already have been spent. Worst case: Companies can throw in the towel and whitelist those programs. This may or may not be a reasonable approach.

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Another important bit of perspective: Press and the geeky elite pay great attention to the upgrade process, but I suspect its not that important an issue to real businesses. Especially with Vista, which has deployment tools that make image distribution much more manageable, upgrading a desktop system is an inherently bad idea. There shouldnt be any data or profile information on a desktop, so its safer and easier just to roll out a new image to it.

Users do upgrade, but even there its a high-end thing to do. The vast majority of users who get Vista, just as with other versions of Windows, will get it bundled on a new system.

Speaking of new systems, I also hear claims that Vistas resource requirements are too large. Of course the official statements on this subject always have to be taken with a grain of salt, but when users claim, as they did to Microsoft Watch, that "[V]ista will NEVER run on a $1000 PC...EVER" I have to say, laugh.

I remember just a few years ago when $1,000 PCs were brand new and hopelessly crippled. Not too long before that $3,000 was always the sweet spot for a PC, and only the power and features changed. But prices have been plummeting and power skyrocketing for years. Today I dont have to shop for very long to find a PC (sans monitor) for $400 thats more than capable of running Vista, and its not like trends are going to change any time soon. I must say it is a bit stunning to see Microsoft state that the requirement is for 512MB RAM. I used to run a copy of NT 4.0 in 8MB, although not a heavily taxed one.

So what it all means is the more things change, the more they stay the same. Just like almost every version of Windows before it, Vista will be adopted by enterprises, slowly and over the course of several years.

Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. He can be reached at larryseltzer@ziffdavis.com.

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