Vista launch more whimper than bang for businesses

There's still 'a bunch of work' to be done on the next Windows client OS

Thursday was finally Windows Vista launch day. But though banners were flying in downtown Manhattan on the big day, celebrating the launch of Vista, Office 2007 and Exchange 2007, CEO Steve Ballmer made it clear that the company is anxious to move on, while business customers pegged for Vista adoption wondered whether there was really much to celebrate.

"There's a bunch of work we still need to do," Ballmer said of the next Windows client OS. Supporting the shift from single-core to multicore chips and improvements in network infrastructure are priorities. Microsoft also wants to add more features to meet the needs of IT administrators, software developers and end-users. "How we do software plus service within Windows is going to continue to be a big theme," Ballmer said.

Enterprise customers were wary.

"Sure it's a big day for Microsoft, but what are we really getting?" asks Paul Lindo, an independent New York IT consultant. "With all the delays and features being dropped, this looks to me like it might just be Windows XP with a prettier face."

Vista suffered several features "adjustments" as well as a lengthier-than-expected road to shrink, including the infamous 2004 dumping of WinFS and a ground-up re-programming effort. But now that the day is finally here, Microsoft is well pleased with its new OS offering.

"It may have been a long road, but watching how our early adopters are responding to the platform, we know we've got a winner," said Brad Goldberg, Microsoft's general manager of client product management. Responding to views such as Lindo's, Goldberg said he remained assured.

"Vista was designed specifically to give business users recognizable benefits over the last generation platform," he said. "That includes productivity, security, networking and noticeably less reliance on IT."

Those last two items especially represent significant development efforts, covering the new UAC authentication model, updated internal diagnostics (including error messages that actually speak English), a completely revamped networking client and new IT tools such as the Reliability Monitor -- a quick dashboard of system reliability. These features were built specifically so users would spend less time talking to the help desk, thus decreasing overall IT spending.

Windows is far better prepared for initial deployment than its predecessors, Goldberg said, citing more than a year of overall QA effort, by far the longest QA period in Microsoft's history.

Despite the enterprise focus of some features, it will still be consumers who lead the charge on Vista adoption. According to a report released by IDC this week, Vista will account for 90 percent of new Windows client deployments in 2007 by home users, compared with just 35 percent of new Windows client deployments by businesses.

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