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Microsoft Sees Record-Breaking Business Adoption Of Windows Vista

Better-than-expected sales of Windows Vista and Office 2007 are pushing the software faster into the mainstream than their predecessors, Microsoft managers suggest.
Despite continuing news of corporations and government agencies holding off on installing Windows Vista, Microsoft anticipates business adoption of the new operating system will come at a record clip.

"We really see Windows Vista as the fastest-deployed operating system that we've ever released in the business space," says Shanen Boettcher, general manager of Windows client product management for Microsoft. "We did think it would be faster [than previous versions of Windows]. It's still early, but we feel good and on track."

Some early numbers appear to support Microsoft's claim. Two weeks ago, Microsoft attributed record profits largely to better-than-expected sales of Vista and Office 2007, though those sales cross both the corporate and consumer markets. In the same quarter, the renewal rates for volume, multi-year licensing packages commonly bought by business customers were also at a record high, coming in at 66 to 75% as opposed to more common 40 to 50% renewal rates. Vista is a major catalyst of those high numbers, according to Boettcher.

Research by analyst firms has also given Microsoft reason for optimism. Gartner has said Vista will be on 4.2% of all business computers by the end of 2007, while IDC has pegged that number at 5% in the same time frame. Looking back at Windows 2000 over the same time frame -- Microsoft says that operating system is the previous benchmark for business adoption -- the number was more like 2.6%.

Another set of metrics Microsoft looks at in qualifying business releases is its own survey results. The company did surveys across all of its markets to measure awareness and anticipation during Vista's release cycle. It found that almost 100% of the IT community was aware of Vista's release and saw as positive a finding that 25% of business customers were either "extremely excited" or "very excited" about Vista. Boettcher says these numbers are also at historic highs.

Meanwhile, InformationWeek Research, in a recent survey of 612 business technology professionals, found that 25% of companies had already begun deploying Vista in some way, and that an additional 17% will begin deployment in the next year. Though the numbers could include companies who are only thus far testing Vista on a few machines, Boettcher sees them as promising. "That would be much better than any previous operating system," he says.

However, it's not all good news. Almost a third of companies in InformationWeek's survey said they had no current plans to upgrade. The company also sometimes finds it tough to combat negative press around early compatibility problems and security holes. "We don't see many as many blog posts about when we release new drivers or we release fixes," Boettcher says. "It's just hard sometimes to get the perception on the progress that we're making. I think the experience today is much different than back at the business launch back in November, and we've got to do a better job at making that known."

Still, Boettcher attributes much of the fast pace to better security, deployment and management features in Vista. He also mentions the fact that because of the long lag between XP's release and that of Vista, many companies have only one operating system running in their environment, rather than a few. "There's one thing they're moving from as opposed to three or four things and then trying to converge those," he says.