Can Vista Make The Big Screen?

Windows Vista is ringing in a new era of graphics, productivity and security capabilities -- not to mention hardware requirements -- but will the next generation of wide-screen displays be ready?

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

February 9, 2007

5 Min Read

Microsoft Windows Vista is ringing in a new era of graphics, productivity and security capabilities—not to mention hardware requirements—but will the next generation of wide-screen displays be ready?

Of key concern to solution providers is whether businesses large or small are ready to flip the switch on purchasing new wide-screen displays. Because it has been about five years since Microsoft last updated its operating system, some observers say that consumers hungry for change may adopt sooner than businesses.

"[Consumers] will begin to say, 'Is it Vista-certified?' " said Keith Groom, director of marketing at SoftChoice, an NEC Display Solutions reseller in Toronto. "If it doesn't have [the logo], they won't buy it," he said.

"We foresee the initial strongest demand will be on the consumer side," said Erik Willey, director of desktop displays at ViewSonic, Walnut, Calif. "Consumers will tend to embrace the new OS before enterprise or corporate accounts." Other vendors contend, however, that interest will be strong in both the consumer and business segments due to Microsoft's campaign to educate the masses on the features of the new platform. When businesses look at the numbers, they'll also see that there is a cost benefit associated with wide-screen products, according to the vendors.

"What is helping drive wide panels, no matter what segment—SMB, SOHO, consumer—[is that] wide products have a more aggressive cost," said Andrew Weis, senior product marketing manager at Samsung Electronics America's Information Technology Division, Irvine, Calif.

Steve Shark, vice president of sales and marketing at DakTech Computers, a ViewSonic partner, agrees, although with a caveat. Shark said it's too soon to come to a definite conclusion about increased sales. Although businesses have already shown higher-than-expected interest in wide-screen displays, a lot of integrator testing is still in the preliminary stages. "We're waiting to see how the market transpires, but early [business] interest has been good," he said.

Shark theorizes that Vista's requirement of more robust machines naturally will lead to a large number of system refreshes, including an upgrade to wide-screen displays. Fargo, N.D.-based DakTech hopes for a 20 percent increase in sales this year.

Several vendors say they are seeing few to no Vista interoperability issues with their legacy displays, but this is not expected to discourage system updates. According to Weis, all of Samsung's domestic offerings are compatible with Vista. "We've seen a huge push for 'wide' products in the channel. When I look at unit volume numbers, we're looking at about 40 percent of our channel business to be wide-volume-driven," Weis said, adding that some of that interest can be attributed to Microsoft's education efforts around Vista.

Continued: Wave Of The Future For Vista Microsoft, Redmond, Wash., is helping to drive the push toward Vista-certified displays with two logo program: Basic and Premium. The Basic certification level affirms that the product has been tested by the manufacturer and by a Microsoft test program known as WHQL. Certification also ensures that during testing the display was assigned a driver guaranteeing plug-and-play compatibility.

The Premium certification encompasses all the Basic requirements and lets users know that the display can take full advantage of Vista's advanced features, such as the ability to alter the display's brightness or resolution via controls on the PC, not the display; design language programmed into the monitor, which maintains the color pallet and appearance of Vista; and the addition of high-bandwidth digital content protection (HDCP).

According to Samsung's Weis, in addition to aggressively priced displays, another benefit for business users is Vista's increased functionality, which is expected to enable greater productivity. "From an employee standpoint, a user standpoint, you're actually able to get more applications open [and] multiple applications running," he said.

ViewSonic's Willey added: "From a wider screen, side by side the aspect ratio unlocks some productivity advantages."

Willey also acknowledges the Vista launch as a good opportunity for bundles and said ViewSonic has sold more than 50 percent of its LCDs as wide-screens. Weis said that Samsung will be offering spifs to solution providers and plans to partner with distributors to promote sales of system bundles.

In addition to ultrahigh resolutions and wide-screen capabilities, another update sure to attract business customers is Vista's widely touted security enhancements. In an effort originally driven by Hollywood to protect intellectual property and prevent piracy, content protection is a valuable bonus.

"The graphics, of course, are beautiful, but the biggest push from a business sense is the security," said Stan Swiderski, senior product development engineer at NEC, Itasca, Ill. "Basically, NEC monitors are ready. With the convergence of video and computers, a lot more people are using their computers to view protected content. The multimedia is really where it will come into play."

Security features in Microsoft's Premium certification level include the requirement of a digital input and content protection compatibility in the form of HDCP, which prohibits the viewing of high-definition, non-encrypted content—think of it as a firewall for your display.

"The security piece is going to drive more adoption than the graphics piece. Obviously, you'll have some pockets, but security is going to be a bigger deal," Shark said.

And as Vista becomes more of an industry standard, conversions and upgrades will keep increasing, solution providers said. "Those that aren't Vista-certified will be a big question mark in the client's eyes," said Nick Adam, sales director at Enterprise Direct, a ViewSonic partner in Phoenix.

SoftChoice's Groom doesn't see the logo issue as a key driver for corporate customers, however. With the amount of information being managed on the average desktop and the use of dual displays, he said, what's more important than the brand name for business users is that greater screen real estate will display more information and Vista can enable that.

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