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Will Vista in the Enterprise Ever Take Off?

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Microsoft’s retiring co-founder Bill Gates has been talking up Windows Vista this week. Specifically, he’s been touting the company’s claims that it has now sold 140 million Vista licenses since it first shipped on January 30, 2007.

In fact, the number is not new. Company executives have bandied it around lately, most recently during Microsoft’s third fiscal quarterly earnings call with financial analysts on April 24.

Microsoft declines to break out that figure, although much of it could be attributed to sales of new PCs at retail. It also does not break out overall sales of operating systems between legacy Windows XP and Vista sales.

However, sales of Windows clients were basically flat in its most recent quarter, which ended on March 31, and some observers suggested that slow sales of higher-profit Vista to corporations might be one issue dragging earnings down.

That said, Vista sales are not doing so badly.

“As a percentage of the professional installed base, Vista is in a more advanced position than XP was at the same point [of its lifecycle],” George Shiffler, a director of research at Gartner who compiled the data in the report, told

To date, however, much of the displacement of older operating systems that has taken place inside corporate customers’ firewalls has been Vista replacing Windows 2000, Shiffler said.

On a global basis, projected use of Windows 2000 fell from 15 percent of the installed base in 2007 to eight percent in 2008, and Gartner predicts it will fall to only four percent in 2009, according to summary data from the report.

At the same time, XP Professional usage fell from 71 percent in 2007 to an expected 63 percent this year, and will fall to 47 percent next year. Meanwhile, Vista adoption is slowly picking up steam, partly because Microsoft shipped Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) last quarter.

The Gartner report has Vista usage rising from 4 percent last year to 19 percent in 2008, and then doubling to 39 percent in 2009 as corporate deployments kick into gear.

What is happening is that many corporations have been waiting to test the final of SP1 before planning to roll out Vista company wide, thus pushing the typical adoption process back by a few months. “Many large enterprises have kicked out their deployments a bit out into 2009,” Shiffler said.

In the meantime, IDC sees Vista taking off this year in its own analysis.

“[Adoption in] 2007 was pretty much what we expected [because] we did not expect Vista to just tear off [out of the gate],” Al Gillen, research vice president for system software at IDC, told “We expect [corporations] will adopt Vista the same way they did XP [and] I think the transition is really going to start this calendar year,” he added.

A Microsoft spokesperson declined to discuss the numbers but said that Vista is being adopted by businesses at a rate that is similar to past Windows releases.

“In the business market there are early, mainstream, and late adopters, with the majority of businesses falling into the category of mainstream. We’re seeing positive indicators that we’re already starting to move from the early adoption phase into the mainstream,” the spokesperson told in an e-mailed statement.

One issue that has slowed adoption so far is lack of compatibility with many enterprises’ mission-critical applications. For instance, versions of Office earlier than Office 2003 have incompatibilities with Vista – unfortunately for Gillen, since he’s using Office 2000 with a bunch of custom scripts that were written in Visual Basic for Applications. That might be easily solved for a single user but not for department after department.

However, skipping Vista in order to wait for Windows 7, which is due out in 2010, is not a good idea, Gillen said.

“It’s two years away [plus a new evaluation period and deployment planning] so we’re talking about a three year window for Windows 7 [and] I’m not sure customers will wait around that long,” Gillen added.

This article was first published on

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