Microsoft: Fast start for Vista in businesses

When it arrives, the much-delayed Windows update will have double XP's rate of adoption, Redmond says. Not everyone's so sure.

Microsoft is predicting that Windows Vista will be adopted by companies at twice the speed as its predecessor, Windows XP.

Twelve months after the release of Vista, Microsoft expects that usage share of the oft-delayed operating system in businesses will be double that of XP a year after it shipped, said Brad Goldberg, general manager for Windows product management at the software maker.

"Vista is built for businesses," Goldberg said. "We're giving businesses the tools they need to get out of the gate faster with Vista...Our goal is to have twice as fast deployment of Vista than for any other operating system."

Microsoft declined to give its own figures on Windows XP's usage percentages, and instead referred to research by IDC. According to the analyst company, XP was installed on about 10 percent of enterprise PCs after a year. That would put the goal for Vista at 20 percent.

"For them to do 20 percent in the first 12 months of availability is almost impossible," said Al Gillen, an analyst at IDC. "They have done all the right things, but adoption is going to be driven by corporate adoption and deployment cycles, more so than by whether Microsoft has greased the skids to make the product glide in faster."

IDC expects a healthy adoption of Vista, Gillen said. "But we're not expecting it to be fundamentally different from previous releases of Windows," he said. IDC's projections suggest that 11 percent of business PCs that run Windows will be running Vista at the end of next year, Gillen said.

Rival analyst company Gartner expects the installed base of Vista in large enterprises to be about 10 percent a year and a half after it ships. "We're not hearing companies say they're in a rush to get their users to Vista," said Gartner analyst Michael Silver.

Vista, the first major upgrade to Windows since XP shipped in late 2001, is slated to become available to businesses in November. Broad availability is scheduled for January.

Help and hindrance
Microsoft has said that corporate adoption of Windows XP was slower than it would have liked.

XP was slow to gain traction among enterprise customers, in part because it came on the heels of Windows 2000, Goldberg said. Additionally, Microsoft was late with tools to support its adoption. For example, a kit to test the compatibility of applications with XP was released nine months after the operating system, and documented deployment guidance took two years, he said.

With Vista, those tools, as well as people trained to help businesses move to the Windows update, will be available as soon as it ships or shortly thereafter, Goldberg said.

Furthermore, Vista should make it easier and cheaper for organizations to manage PCs that run the new operating system, Goldberg said. "Vista has business customers at the center of everything we've done," he said. "In some cases, it will be cheaper for an organization to upgrade to Vista than to keep their current configuration."

Microsoft has addressed many of the key adoption blockers, but that alone isn't enough, Silver said. A lot will hinge on the availability of third-party software that supports the update. "That's the biggest inhibitor to deploying a lot of Vista very soon after it ships," he said.

One Microsoft customer plans to upgrade to Vista at a pace even quicker than its maker predicts--but not for the sake of getting a new operating system. Instead, the operating system will come in as part of its upgrade cycle for computers.

"When we replace our PCs, they will run Vista, and we will replace a third of our PCs over the next year," said Thomas Smith, the manager of client services at a large Houston company.

Smith, who is responsible for about 9,000 PCs, doesn't buy Microsoft's argument that Vista is cheaper to run.

"It takes more hardware, the learning curve is costly, the help desk calls are going to escalate, we'll have to manage both XP and Vista, I think you're actually going to increase cost, at least in the short term," he said.

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