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Vista's Success Is Inevitable

As the one-year anniversary of Windows Vista approaches, more than a few industry analysts and pundits are ready to write the beleaguered operating system off as a crashing disappointment. Some have even wondered if Vista is on the same path as that of Windows/ME, widely considered to be one of Microsoft's rare failures in the operating systems business.

These observers, who assume Vista will fail given its current course, have proposed a wide range of solutions Microsoft might pursue in order to save face. They range from the very simple to the impossibly complex: lowering all upgrade pricing to $99 or dumping the thing entirely in favor of creating a whole new OS.

Back in the real world there's mounting evidence that Vista's shorter-term success is hardly guaranteed. In a fairly recent study conducted by Kace Systems Management among 961 IT professionals and users, some 90 percent of the respondents reported they have concerns about migrating to Vista.

Uphill Battle
In response to one question about trying to avoid unwanted complexity in their heterogeneous environments, 44 percent of Windows users said they'd seriously consider going to alternative OSes -- most notably the Mac OS and Linux -- just to avoid migrating to Vista. In the same survey some 53 percent said they have no plans to deploy Vista at all, with only 13 percent expecting they'll eventually be fully deployed on Vista.

Adding to the less-than-rosy outlook is that no one seems to be overly excited about the impact the first service pack for Vista will have.

While Microsoft officials would no more call Vista a major disappointment than the Red Sox would call Alex Rodriguez a franchise savior, they've made a few moves that indicate Vista's acceptance so far has been much slower than anticipated -- certainly among corporate accounts. For one, Redmond extended the cutoff date for when PC manufacturers had to stop bundling Windows XP with their systems in favor of Vista from year-end 2007 to mid-2008.

Potential for Success
Still, there are reasons to believe Microsoft officials when they say Vista will yet become their most successful operating system to date. First is that, despite taking more than five years to deliver Vista (minus a number of promised fundamental features), precious few IT shops have followed through on threats to migrate off Windows to Linux or the Mac. Despite all of Microsoft's travails with Vista, Apple's share of the desktop market has zoomed all the way from around 3 percent to 4 percent in the past year, and could rocket all the way to 5 percent in 2008. Linux desktop share still hasn't budged past 2 percent.

"There's some hesitancy to move to [Vista], no question. But we've predicted all along that Vista would get off to a pretty slow start among corporate users in the first year and that, in fact, is what's happening. But I wouldn't write it off as dead yet," says Al Gillen, research VP of system software with IDC.

IDC's collected data on the intentions of users in large IT shops to deploy Vista shows that almost half say they're either currently testing or are planning to evaluate Vista.

"The plans [for deployment] are there, but the actual adoption and deployment isn't happening quickly," Gillen says.

However, Gillen adds that he was expecting about 90 million paid copies of Vista to be installed by the end of 2007, with 55 million going to consumers and 35 million to business users. He's projecting another 154 million paid copies to be sold by the end of 2008, with 66 million going to consumers and 88 million to businesses. This would bring the total to 245 million copies of Vista sold in the first 23 months of availability, representing approximately 35 percent of the total Windows installed base.

Another factor that figures to significantly boost Vista's installed numbers -- one often overlooked by Vista critics -- is that industry observers expect Microsoft to end support of Windows XP in the first half of 2009. Many large IT shops with thousands of copies of Windows XP on desktop systems will -- like it or not -- have to begin the staged process of replacing this software in late 2008 if they hope to avoid a chaotic transition. With many of these large shops having already paid for hundreds and even thousands of copies of Vista through their respective licensing plans, Vista's financial success is an inevitability.

About the Author

Ed Scannell is the editor of Redmond magazine.

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