Common Sense on Vista Adoption

By Larry Seltzer  |  Print this article Print


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Opinion: Let's get ready for the usual routine: No matter how good Vista is, corporate adoption will be very slow, and for good reason.

Every time a new version of Windows comes out we dance the same dance about adoption rates. Microsoft promises large benefits to its enterprise customers. ISVs gear up support. Advocates for alternative operating systems talk about how this will be the version that gives them their foot in the door.

With Vista it's basically the same, if a little more tense. The most important advances in Vista are security-related, and the security ISVs are mostly mad about changes in Vista that will restrict their freedoms.

The case for corporate adoption of Vista is strong. The security improvements alone are compelling, especially on mobile systems. Microsoft has vastly improved the deployment tools for enterprises and Active Directory management is stronger than ever.

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But businesses can't change operating systems that quickly. It would be crazy for them to try, especially for something like a Windows upgrade where it's possible to move incrementally. The hardware costs, the training costs, the downtime for IT staff from other regular tasks, the disruption to software configuration and a dozen other reasons argue against moving quickly.

What makes sense is to roll out Vista on a group or departmental basis as hardware is upgraded. This makes more sense than ever with Vista, since the hardware requirements are likely to exceed the capabilities of the average installed business desktop, especially one running Windows 2000.

The complaints about Windows Vista breaking applications are as exaggerated as most of the other complaints, but they're on the right track. One reader said that more than 50 percent of applications don't work on Vista. I very much doubt this, but I'm sure every large company has some, perhaps many, custom programs that run afoul of Vista's emphasis on limited user accounts.

Adapting applications to this new reality will take time, although it's time that should already have been spent. Worst case: Companies can throw in the towel and whitelist those programs. This may or may not be a reasonable approach.

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Another important bit of perspective: Press and the geeky elite pay great attention to the upgrade process, but I suspect it's not that important an issue to real businesses. Especially with Vista, which has deployment tools that make image distribution much more manageable, upgrading a desktop system is an inherently bad idea. There shouldn't be any data or profile information on a desktop, so it's safer and easier just to roll out a new image to it.

Users do upgrade, but even there it's a high-end thing to do. The vast majority of users who get Vista, just as with other versions of Windows, will get it bundled on a new system.

Speaking of new systems, I also hear claims that Vista's resource requirements are too large. Of course the official statements on this subject always have to be taken with a grain of salt, but when users claim, as they did to Microsoft Watch, that "[V]ista will NEVER run on a $1000 PC...EVER" I have to say, laugh.

I remember just a few years ago when $1,000 PCs were brand new and hopelessly crippled. Not too long before that $3,000 was always the sweet spot for a PC, and only the power and features changed. But prices have been plummeting and power skyrocketing for years. Today I don't have to shop for very long to find a PC (sans monitor) for $400 that's more than capable of running Vista, and it's not like trends are going to change any time soon. I must say it is a bit stunning to see Microsoft state that the requirement is for 512MB RAM. I used to run a copy of NT 4.0 in 8MB, although not a heavily taxed one.

So what it all means is the more things change, the more they stay the same. Just like almost every version of Windows before it, Vista will be adopted by enterprises, slowly and over the course of several years.

Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. He can be reached at larryseltzer@ziffdavis.com.

Check out eWEEK.com's for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at eWEEK.com Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer's Weblog.

Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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