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12/17/2007
01:49 PM
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The Corporate Vista Slow-Down

Last October, a Gartner survey found that 64% of companies planned to begin moving from Windows XP to Windows Vista by the winter of 2008. One year later, that number stands at a measly 9%. Vista may be down, but don't count it out.

Last October, a Gartner survey found that 64% of companies planned to begin moving from Windows XP to Windows Vista by the winter of 2008. One year later, that number stands at a measly 9%. Vista may be down, but don't count it out.Up-front disclaimer time: Vista still has plenty to prove. It's reputation has been damaged by early problems, and Microsoft may need to step up to the plate to bring customers back to the feeding trough earlier than 2009.

Vista has had a fair share of problems, from application incompatibility to sluggish performance. My old Dell loads and runs Windows Vista slower than grandma accelerating from a stoplight. Yet these are expected kinks. Previous versions of Windows have had them to some degree and Microsoft and its hardware and software partners have gotten many of the Vista-related incompatibilities fixed.

Then there are annoyances that Microsoft doesn't seem intent on fixing or can't fix. Windows Vista is just different enough from Windows XP to require some employees be re-trained. Don't want to cough up those extra bucks? The easy out is not to install Vista, and if you do, do what Continental Airlines is doing with some of its Vista PCs and tweak the configuration so it looks, smells, and acts similar to XP. I can only imagine the headaches suffered moving employees from DOS to Windows.

One of Microsoft's main value propositions is Vista's security, but the User Account Control authorization dialog boxes are among the most annoying features of the operating system, even sparking an Apple ad in parody. Still, it can be tweaked or generally even turned off so that it's less grating.

Some would argue the damage has been done. That 64% deployment barrier now isn't expected to be reached until early 2009, just around the time Microsoft stops making Windows XP Professional available to white box PC vendors. And Windows "7," the version after Vista, is due either late 2009 or some time in 2010, depending on who you ask and what tea leaves you read.

In the same report as the one I referenced earlier, Gartner was reduced to urging companies not to skip Vista entirely because it will just make the next operating system upgrade that much more difficult than the Vista migration has been for some companies. Riding out XP for a few more years might not sound like a bad thing now, but the code is getting old. By the time Windows "7" gets released, XP's backbone will be eight years old, an eternity in today's fast moving software world.

Don't forget that one of the main reasons people like XP is that Microsoft took so long to deliver Vista. Now, we're just used to it. During Vista's development phase, many Microsoft customrs whined about security problems. Though the XP code is now relatively stable and XP SP2 took Windows security several steps forward, it's still the same XP under the covers.

Most companies will remain with Windows for the foreseeable future. It's the incredibly odd corporation that's putting Linux or Mac OS X in most offices. I'm not saying companies should move to Vista full throttle; far from it. But though a measured response is required, moving too slow could set companies up for even worse compatibility problems or for switching operating systems twice in quick succession, as may have happened when Microsoft released Windows 2000 and XP within a short time of one another at the beginning of this decade.

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