Exclusive eWEEK research indicates that Microsoft’s desktop Windows operating system is a rousing success.
In a survey conducted by Ziff Davis Enterprise Editorial Research for eWEEK of enterprise IT professionals, just 2 percent of respondents said that Vista was the primary desktop operating system at their companies, while 92 percent indicated that XP was their primary desktop OS.
Respondents whose companies have implemented Vista or plan to indicated that the primary driver was not any improvements the new OS offers, but rather new hardware.
Thirty-four percent of these respondents indicated that their organizations’ primary driver for Vista implementation would be the OS coming in on new hardware; 17 percent said the primary driver was the OS’ improved security; 13 percent said integration with Windows Server 2008; 7 percent said improved usability/functionality; and 3 percent said improved reliability.
A relatively significant number of people selected “other” in response to this question, with many specifying that the main driver for moving to Vista would be the end of support for XP and keeping current.
But this is just the circle of life (Windows life, that is), according to IT managers who spoke with eWEEK.
“I expect, like in XP, migration will occur as new machines arrive with Vista,” said Robert Rosen, CIO of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. “There doesn’t, at this point, appear to be sufficient ROI to go through a massive conversion of older machines.”
When a new operating system is released-desktop or otherwise-IT organizations don’t jump to move to it. Unless there’s a problem with the existing OS, migration happens during the normal hardware lifecycle updates-and not before.
“Our main OS is XP,” said Ed Benincasa, vice president of management-information systems at FN Manufacturing. “We are running Vista in the IT environment and testing with apps to see how it works and what our issues are. We haven’t found any argument that says, -Let’s upgrade because it’s superior due to X.”
Benincasa said his company has a rotation plan in which new hardware replaces outdated systems every three or four years. New operating systems typically come into the organization on these systems.
Kevin Baradet, CTO of the S.C. Johnson School of Management at Cornell University, updates hardware for the school’s staff on a similar schedule, and said that upgrades typically aren’t a good use of the IT department’s time. “When we configure a computer, we try and make sure it has enough memory and CPU to get it through its lifecycle.”
That goes for the operating system, too, and XP seems to be holding its own just fine, especially when you compare the jump from, say, Windows 95 to 98 with the jump from Windows XP to Windows Vista.
Over 60 percent say they will begin move to Vista within six months.
“Years ago, you had 95 to 98, and 98 was a lot better, so, there are cases where if your performance and stability significantly increases, [an upgrade] is worth it,” said Benincasa. “But, in the case of XP, it may not be perfect, but it’s functioning. So it’s hard to justify a wholesale upgrade because Vista is new and cool.”
The same is true when you consider the delta between Windows 2000 and XP, said Baradet: “When XP came out, we did believe it was a much bigger improvement than 2000. But, even though that was the case, we still once again didn’t say, -Wholesale, let’s update.”
This type of timetable was reflected in the survey, with more than 60 percent of respondents saying that a move to Vista would begin six months or more in the future: Thirty-three percent of these respondents said the move would begin six months to a year from now; 22 percent said one year to 18 months from now, and 6 percent said more than 18 months from now.
In addition, 72 percent of respondents said they expected the desktop OS they were using now to be the one they would be using in 2009. Some respondents were looking beyond Vista, with 6 percent saying the desktop OS they expected to be using in 2009 would be Windows “7,” the post-Vista version of Windows.
That said, IT managers don’t expect XP to live forever. “At some point, you’re going to need to [move to Vista] because you’ll lose support for XP,” said Benincasa.
Micrsoft has said it will end mainstream support in April 2009 and extended support in 2014.
FN Manufacturing’s IT team has been testing Vista, and so far has found no significant problems, said Benincasa. “Initially we had difficulty, but it was mostly drivers. At this point, our major apps are running and seem to be working with Vista. But, we haven’t tested everything yet, and we’re fairly current–the oldest app is probably from 2000.”
Both Benincasa and Baradet said they expect to deploy Windows XP Service Pack 3 when it is released.
Benincasa anticipates starting to bring Vista in on new machines once his management and migration tools are updated to support Vista. “We just want to do a good, rational rollout on a timetable that makes sense for us,” said Benincasa.
But he’s in no rush: “I know Microsoft is saying they’re going to end support for XP,” he said, “but I’m hoping they rethink that and move it out a little longer.”