A new survey of 2,000 IT buyers found that 53 percent are currently planning to skip Windows Vista altogether and instead will wait to move from Windows XP to Windows 7 when it arrives.
The survey was conducted by ChangeWave Research of Windows 7 beta testers between Feb. 9 and Feb. 17.
ChangeWave's survey comes out at a crucial time for Microsoft. The company is busy readying the first -- and possibly only -- "release candidate" or RC, which is the last test release prior to shipping the product.
Historically, most new copies of Windows enter enterprises and other corporate shops preinstalled on new hardware as part of the businesses' technology refresh cycles. Frequently, existing systems will be gradually phased out, although sometimes they are upgrade.
However, a move from an existing PC running XP to Windows 7 will require a clean install of the new system. That means extra work and cost for IT staffers if they have to migrate those existing PCs from XP rather than from Vista to Windows 7, which is an in-place upgrade.
Additionally, skipping Vista also may mean delaying deployment of the new system for anywhere from a few months to a year and a half after Windows 7 ships in order to perform in-house testing. That could clash with those refresh cycles.
Given Vista's lukewarm reputation with many users, a similar performance this time around for Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) could strike a major blow against the 34-year-old company. Although the levels of enthusiasm and anticipation for Windows 7 appear to be much higher than for Windows Vista's launch just over two years ago, Microsoft executives know how important Windows 7 has become.
Still, the pattern of IT shops skipping Vista to wait for Windows 7 was becoming clear several months ago
Its results are similar to those from a survey released in December, which found that 46 percent of the respondents polled last fall planned to skip Vista in favor of later adopting Windows 7.
That earlier survey was conducted by Information Technology Intelligence Corp. in conjunction with Sunbelt Software, and polled 700 IT decision makers.
Among other findings, ChangeWave's survey found that 15 percent of the 2000 IT buyers it polled are still planning to go through with a migration to Vista. Still, "14 percent said their company is already deferring at least some of their PC and server purchases to wait for Windows 7," ChangeWave said in a summary of its survey results.
Of course, it's still unclear even when Windows 7 will ship.
InternetNews.com reported in September that Microsoft was targeting a "release to manufacturing" or RTM around June 3. Recent leaks, though, say that RC testing, instead of beginning in the next week or two, has now been pushed back to sometime in May, and RTM could conceivably slip until late summer.
Microsoft, as usual, is keeping mum on even intermediate dates like the beginning of RC testing, although that is a dam that's likely about to break. To date, though, the only ship date Microsoft executives will give is that it should ship by the third anniversary of Vista's release, which would make it Jan. 30, 2010.
The ChangeWave report also yields another tidbit.
In a subset of the overall poll, 44 percent of a group of 68 beta testers said they were "very satisfied" with the beta of Windows 7. A similar question asked right after Vista's launch found only 10 percent were very satisfied.
A Microsoft spokesperson declined to comment on the ChangeWave survey except to say that, "the report speaks for itself."
This article was first published on InternetNews.com.