Tackle Vista 6 months after SP1, says support CEO

In the meantime, hang on to XP, says David Milman of Rescuecom

If there's one word to describe Windows Vista users, that word is frustrated, said the head of a national chain of computer support centers in the US.

How frustrated?

"Wait for six months after Vista SP1 [Service Pack 1] appears before moving to Vista," recommended David Milman, CEO of Rescuecom, which operates a chain of IT support franchises. "Microsoft certainly does need to address Vista's problems with SP1, but we're telling customers to stay with XP for at least the rest of 2007 and through much of 2008 if SP1 is delayed to the start of that year."

Milman based his advice on a sampling of the calls taken by Rescuecom outlets nationwide. Of the 2,500 calls for service, 4.5 percent overall were related to Vista, slightly under the estimated 5.4 percent market share enjoyed by Microsoft's newest operating system. When small business customers contacted Rescuecom, however, 7 percent of the time they were dialing because of Vista.

Compatibility problems that are still arising months after Vista's release are the reason, said Milman. "Windows' hallmark has always been its backward compatibility," he said, but a big chunk of support calls, especially from businesses, involve running third-party software on Vista. "We're seeing lots of problems with older programs that the customer has been running, sometimes for years," Milman said.

Most of the incompatibility questions that Rescuecom is receiving involve upgrading existing hardware to support Vista, and performance problems that arise after the operating system has been installed. Some customers, in fact, have reverted back to Windows XP because of their dissatisfaction with Vista's performance on older hardware setups, said Milman.

"There's no question that XP is the most solid Windows platform right now," he said. "Stick with XP if you can. There's only one reason to switch, and that's if the new software brings something new to the table. Vista doesn't bring enough new things to the table."

About 22 percent of Rescuecom's customers continue to buy XP-equipped PCs, said Milman.

Some PC manufacturers have seen the same stick-with-XP attitude. In April, for example, Dell relented to continued demand for Windows XP by returning the older operating system to its list of pre-installed options for consumers. Even Microsoft has smelled the XP coffee. Last month, the company's chief financial officer tweaked the company's fiscal 2008 forecast to show a 78 percent-22 percent split in sales between Vista and XP, a change from the earlier 85 percent-15 percent prediction.

At the moment, Microsoft's deadline for phasing out XP to large original equipment manufacturers like Dell is Jan. 30, 2008; smaller system builders and end users, however, will be able to license XP into early 2009.

"We obviously believe, in two or three years, Vista will be the de facto standard," said Milman, "but users should hold off another six months after SP1."

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld

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