Survey: Business Adoption Of Windows Vista Is Wide, But Not Deep

Hardware compatibility, cost of upgrading are among concerns cited by business technology managers.

In the near term, don't expect a sharp increase in Vista rollouts. In addition to the 25% of survey respondents who have already begun the move, only 17% plan to install Vista over the next 12 months. For 58% of respondents, Vista is more than a year away or not on their to-do list at all.

Why not move faster? Hardware compatibility is the top concern, cited by 75% of respondents. Vista requires more processing power than Windows XP, forcing IT managers to assess whether existing PCs are up to the task. Even when PCs do meet Vista's minimum requirements--an 800-MHz processor and 512 Mbytes of memory--a third of IT managers worry that may not be enough to get acceptable performance. "I was kind of shocked at how much hardware it took, including processor power and memory," says Steve Price, information systems manager with Boyd Corp., a manufacturing company. "We've had to do hardware upgrades, and really we haven't been able to find the benefit to it yet." Give Vista two years, Price says, and he might have a different story to tell.

Though our survey didn't ask about it, application compatibility with Vista is an issue for many IT departments. "The problem with being an early adopter is coming across things that really don't quite work yet," says Rich Casselberry, Enterasys' director of IT operations. Out of 150 apps Enterasys tested with Vista, only a few didn't work, but one of those was Avaya's softphone, a key piece of communications software for the company's mobile employees.

Other common concerns are that Vista won't improve productivity, cited by 62% of respondents, and that the costs of upgrading are too high (53%). Technical assessments, business case studies, and conversations with Microsoft haven't convinced the American Red Cross that there's a business case for putting Vista on its 36,000 PCs. In addition to the cost of the operating system itself (which may or may not be covered under an enterprise license agreement), associated expenses can include hardware upgrades, application-compatibility testing, training, and tech support.

chart: What's Holding Back Deployment


Of course, much of the delay is just hand wringing. Windows Vista will, like its predecessors, find its way onto millions of business PCs; it's a question of when, not if. Enhanced security is the No. 1 reason business technologists are considering the move, cited by 54% of those completing our survey. "The third-party world has at least mitigated a lot of the real security threat, but to keep up, the Vista security model is going to be a requirement," says Ken Savoy, director of technical services at CommunityAmerica Credit Union. Other reasons companies are mulling the move: 35% need to upgrade their PCs anyway; 33% seek improved performance; and 31% want to pair Vista with Office 2007.

It's worth noting that Vista's bells and whistles are not what's driving business adoption. The operating system's sophisticated user interface is mentioned by only 15% as a cause for considering the switch, and its advanced graphics capabilities by 11%.

chart: Vista Letdown

Valeo Behavioral Healthcare, which runs mental health and drug abuse treatment centers in Kansas, will probably make the move to Vista next year. Before it does, however, director of IT Martin High is assessing Linux-based PCs as possible alternatives. "We just have to be very careful what we do, because we could go down the wrong road really easily," he says.

High is right to be cautious, but the road ahead looks something like this: a 10-lane highway to Windows Vista and lightly traveled paths to everything else.

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Windows Vista: Meeting Expectations or Falling Short?

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Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer