Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Vista Faces an Uphill Battle with Businesses

Microsoft’s Windows Vista operating system appears to be losing traction with businesses. Fears of an uncertain economy are one factor, but there’s also a more fundamental reason: Many businesses still don’t see the need.

Consumers tend to buy new operating systems when they buy new computers. For businesses, however, moving to a new operating system is a strategic decision that takes into account much more: factors such as cost, the time it takes to train employees, and whether the new operating system is compatible with the hardware and software the businesses already use.

When Microsoft released Vista last year, businesses greeted it enthusiastically. While few businesses ever install a new system during its first year on the market, a 2007 Sanford C. Bernstein survey of corporate tech leaders found that 31% anticipated installing Vista by the end of 2008; 68% anticipated installing it by the end of 2010.

But over the last year, many businesses decided to delay moving to Vista — some, indefinitely. According to a new Bernstein survey, only 8% of tech leaders now anticipate installing Vista by the end of 2008. And only 26% say they’ll install it by the end of 2010.

What happened? Businesses just don’t see the value. Vista only runs on powerful computers, so installing the operating system often also requires buying a new PC, something businesses want to put off with tightening budgets.

The situation for Delaware’s state government is fairly typical. The tech department there recently decided to delay moving to Vista and instead installed XP, an older version of Windows, on about 40 new computers. The state didn’t want to train employees how to use Vista, and some of the software the state uses may not work with Vista, says Rob Revels, a tech official there. There’s no compelling reason to upgrade, he says.

Microsoft Vice President Mike Nash says that many businesses are making their decisions based on outdated impressions of Vista. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there that we’re trying to correct,” he says. Part of the problem for Microsoft: The company focused on security and manageability when it designed Vista, which, while important, are tough to market.

Still, not everyone is wary of Vista. The U.S. Air Force, for example, intends to buy 150,000 computers over the next several months that will run Vista. Kenneth B. Heitkamp, a tech director for the Air Force, says security is a top priority for his service. Additionally, he anticipates that buying PCs with Vista already installed and some of Vista’s energy and time-saving improvements will help the Air Force save more that $25 million in energy and management costs each year.

Yet even Heitkamp understands why Vista’s benefits aren’t generating more buzz. “You’ll never hear a consumer talk about security and manageability,” he says.

source: The Wall Street Journal

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