Is the world counting the minutes for the release of Vista on a cold day in January? Despite the increasing din from Microsofts hype machine and upbeat notes from Windows evangelists, managers in enterprise and small business see a transition far in the future. But how far? It could be very, very far.
At the same time, Vista appears to be gaining a reputation among users as “eye candy.” This perception may be hard to shake.
In a recent column, I asked if readers believe we will see an immediate surge in Vista upgrades or whether most enterprise and SMB sites will wait. And, if they were putting off the transition, how long?
Using the responses as an informal poll, the results show that Microsoft hasnt made much of a dent in the negative perception of the update. Most responders said they will wait a very long time before moving to Windows Vista.
Only 13 percent of readers had a good word for Vista, while 26 percent were adamantly against moving from Windows XP. The rest, 61 percent, said they would wait a long, long while before installing the upgrade.
Large enterprises will be the slowest to respond, readers said. (Im keeping the responses on a first name basis, since this information often sends up alarms from corporate legal departments.)
According to Stefan, a manager in the European wing of a global Top 10 manufacturing company, his companys desktops were only recently converted to Windows XP.
“Now, XP is nearly 5 years old. And to my greatest dismay, they even cared to disable the Luna desktop style! So what do you think, when will the company introduce Vista to its PCs? And [even then] will it be recognizable as Vista? I doubt it will be before all support for XP ceases,” he predicted.
Frederick, an IT analyst at a major university science center, said that when costs for hardware and software changes were counted with the additional training and support budgets needed for the transition, Vista was a no starter.
In addition, he warned Microsoft could accelerate its Service Pack update cycle to persuade enterprise customers that the water was now safe.
“My recommendation to the director is that if we have to go to Vista (provided MS doesnt follow through with their promise of releasing a new OS every two to three years), then we should wait until at least the second service pack. Why wait for SP2? Because Redmond knows that most corporations will wait until the first, so it will prematurely release the first service pack to kick-start Vista,” the reader suggested.
“My gut recommendation is that Vista is a skip version, in other words, we should avoid it all together. Microsoft really blew it on this one,” Frederick concluded.
A majority of readers said they would do likewise and wait until or past Vista SP2. Of course, we dont know when that will be, but that release could be well into the 2009 time frame. Or perhaps longer?
Given the delays in Vista and the irregular scheduling of Service Packs for Windows XP, the arrival of Vista SP2 in 2010 doesnt sound absurd. (Earlier this year, industry insiders said that Microsoft planned an SP3 (Service Pack 3) for Windows XP Professional in 2007. However, online reports now say that the XP SP3 release has been pushed to 2008, some 7 years after the operating systems initial launch.
Several readers thought the questioning tone in the first column might skew the readership and the responses to the negative. Thats a fair shot. But suppose we double the number of positive responses? That still comes to only a quarter of the total.
Based on the numbers, Vista looks to be a super slow starter. From my counting of reader reactions, 87 percent will wait or are against a move from XP altogether.
Several messages suggested customers might be able to game the upgrade cycle. According to reader Bruce, his IT department will start to evaluate Vista in the second quarter of 2007 with the earliest deployment coming towards the end of the year. However, he expected the real schedule was more in the second half of 2008.
“The scuttle-butt is that we will wait until Microsoft is agreeable to lower pricing due to flagging sales. Watch MSFT stock price and who is selling about the time Vista hits the shelves,” he said.
This is perhaps some wishful thinking on the part of these scuttle-butters. Microsoft is a monopoly and doesnt lower prices. As far as I know, this hasnt happened. So, good luck with that strategy.
Yet, Will, the CIO of an enterprise networking integrator and consulting company, was upbeat about Vistas benefits. At the same time, he foresaw hurdles to its adoption in his own company.
He pointed to a number of positives: Vistas modular architecture; the changes to the handling of the Registry, which should avoid “Windows rot;” improved security; better integration with Windows Mobile; and the better UI.
Still, “the biggest problem Vista faces is the perception by users that its just a whiz-bang, shiny feature-enhancement to XP,” Will said.
“Now, the reason why my company wont be rolling out Vista immediately: cost. Not the software. Since we are Microsoft partners (as well as Linux and formerly Sun OS), the cost of the software is negligible to us. Its the cost of the hardware. Being a small business, swapping out all our hardware for stuff that will actually run Vista well—Im talking with Aero Glass, otherwise, without the cool bells and whistles, it really doesnt seem like Vista—is not a practical decision,” he said.
Many other readers expressed trouble understanding the need for the upgrade. This certainly was true for the 26 percent of responders who said that XP would have to be “torn out of their hands” as well as for many of the wait-and-see crowd.
Next Page: The Problem of “eye candy.”
The Problem of Eye
Dennis, the IT director at a civil engineering consulting company, said Vista does nothing that XP isnt already doing and “avoiding Vista is a way of avoiding headaches that I dont need involving hardware upgrades, software compatibility and user retraining.”
His testing of Vista hasnt persuaded him of the benefits to his clients.
“The new shiny Aero Glass interface that Vista sports is all looks and no substance, as far as Im concerned,” Dennis said. “[Vista] has no Up button in Windows Explorer, for instance; instead were given Search and Breadcrumbs.
“Ive ranted at length (and to no good effect) on a Microsoft Website concerning the Windows User Experience. What Ive found there is an attitude that Microsoft knows best, and after you use Vista for a few months, youll get the hang of it and come around,” he observed.
According to Dennis, the only way Vista client and Longhorn server would make sense would be if his company was doing a “forklift upgrade” on its entire client-server infrastructure.
“I dont think that scenario is going to happen at very many companies, however. It certainly isnt going to happen here,” he concluded.
Of course, that scenario—the wholesale upgrading of infrastructure—wont be repeated at most businesses here and abroad, despite the increasing din of happy talk from the Microsoft hype machine as January approaches.
Redmond looks to be in a triple pickle with Vista upgrades: hardware and software hurdles for users to overcome; the difficulty of management to see ROI from the transition; and a seemingly fundamental psychological resistance to the new OS. While much of its user base sees little value in the upgrade, the folks who are onboard Vista still cant overcome the XP inertia.
As a longtime Mac user, I find a great irony here. Windows users have long dissed the Mac platform with the label of “eye candy.” This was true during the era of the Classic Mac OS and was doubly so when Apple unveiled its Aqua UI for OS X.
The Windows installed base has lived with the current UI for a long time and while they dont love it, Windows fits like a prized old pair of jeans. And they appear have internalized the implicit message: an advanced GUI is “eye candy.”
Does Microsoft believe that its customers will buy the idea that the Mac stuff is eye candy, while the new Windows UI is “evolution.” Hey, I know eye candy when I see it!
So, how can anyone be shocked when Windows users feel they can do without Vista? Its like tossing out that old t-shirt.
Dont get me wrong, I like Vistas UI. But, then, Im a Mac guy, who believes in eye candy.
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