Vista turns one, and businesses start to come around slowly

The secret weapons: SP1 and free and easy deployment tools

When Microsoft released Windows Vista to businesses exactly one year ago, near-term expectations weren't high.

Experts widely predicted that Vista, even if it was bug-free and proved to be an immediate hit with consumers, would only slowly catch on with corporations.

For instance, Gartner forecast at the time that fewer than 5 percent of PCs worldwide would be running a business version of Vista by the end of this year.

One year on, it's unclear whether Microsoft has met even those pessimistic projections. In July, Redmond said enterprises had renewed 42 million Windows licenses that made them eligible for Vista. Trouble is, Microsoft also admitted that the vast majority of those 42 million PCs were likely still on XP, though the company claims it has no accurate way of tracking this. Microsoft has not provided a more up-to-date figure in the last 4 months.

According to another estimate of Vista's uptake, a Forrester survey,/a> of 565 North American and European PC decision-makers, after 6 to 8 months only 2 percent of corporate PCs were running Vista.

By the end of this year, only 7 percent of respondents plan to even start deploying Vista at all, wrote Forrester analyst Ben Gray in that report.

"I'll be honest, we haven't moved a lot of users," said Lee Nicholls, global solutions director for Getronics NV. While the Microsoft systems integrator has the conversion of 200,000 Windows corporate users in its current pipeline, it has so far actually moved only about 14,000 Windows users to Vista, Nicholls said.

Fault enough to go around

Not every reason why companies are dragging their feet is Redmond's fault. Planning and preparing for an OS upgrade, especially for a large corporation with tens of thousands of PCs running thousands of different applications, can take months or years.

Other reasons, such as Vista's hefty hardware requirements, can be laid at Microsoft's feet. Deploying Vista requires companies to upgrade many PCs faster than they want.

"Bringing forward a hardware refresh [to upgrade to Vista] is not a conversation that is going to fly with many companies," Nicholls said.

Microsoft reportedly planned to spend US$500 million worldwide this year to market Vista. Despite that spending, Microsoft still "didn't do such a great job" explaining "the business value" of Vista to enterprises, asserted Nicholls.

That has led to the perception that "XP is good enough in most cases," Nicholls said -- a perception that he argues, citing Getronics' own projections for IT labor cost savings from Vista's improved security and manageability, is untrue. Microsoft should use similar such data to take the offensive, he said.

"How many financial services CIOs just want 'good enough'?" he said. "Don't they want software that can create genuine improvement on the bottom line?"

Microsoft also invested heavily in tightening Vista's security and adding features such as BitLocker drive encryption and Group Policy, improvements the company figured would drive corporate upgrades.

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Eric Lai

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