Despite Gloom and Doom Predictions, Vista Gains Momentum

By Sharon Linsenbach  |  Print this article Print

Vista never did live up to its own hype, but the OS is actually doing pretty well, analysts say.

VARs shouldn't start singing the Windows Vista blues just yet.  While Vista hasn't exactly revolutionized operating systems or changed the world with software, it also hasn't plummeted into a bottomless adoption gap as some analysts claimed it would.  And if solution providers give Vista another chance, they just might find themselves singing a different tune.

In April 2008, a year after Vista's original release, Bill Gates told a Tokyo audience that Vista had racked up 140 million sales, proof that the OS has been selling "at a rapid pace," one that beat out Windows XP's sales rate a year after that OS launched.

Michael Cherry, senior analyst with independent firm Directions on Microsoft, says first of all that it's best to take Gates at his word, since there's no good reason for Microsoft to "fudge sales numbers or play fast and loose with words." But Cherry also notes that XP adoption by businesses was also somewhat disappointing until Service Pack 2 shipped.

"They're saying that Vista sales are tracking with XP sales in the same time period, but what everyone's forgetting is that XP got off to a slow start, too," Cherry says. 

Research firm IDC's recent report on Vista, released just after SP1 shipped in February 2008, shows that adoption rates for the OS aren't as dismal as conventional wisdom and public perception would have you believe.  IDC predicted in October 2006 that first-year Vista consumer sales would account for about 34 percent of total 2007 Windows COE (client operating environment) sales, and that Vista's business versions would be 22 percent of total Windows COE sales.

The actual numbers, according to IDC's March 2008 report "Worldwide Windows Client Operating Environments 2008–2012 Forecast: Windows Vista Momentum Picks Up Steam," by analysts Al Gillen and Brett Waldman, were not that far off the mark: Windows Vista consumer sales were 36 percent of the 2007 total, while business versions were 18 percent of the total for Windows COE sales.

These numbers are nothing to sneeze at, but they still failed to live up to the hype Microsoft itself built up around Vista before its release.  According to the IDC report, "Microsoft's PR machine elevated expectations to lofty objectives."  But the massive install base, software that was more compatible with XP than Vista and a solid channel pretty much doomed Vista to an adoption rate no faster than previous products.  As the IDC report puts it, "A worldwide frenzy on the scale of the Windows 95 launch a decade ago, it was not."

Cherry says that's not surprising.  In the past, with upgrades such as Windows 95 and 98, major OS and hardware changes gave end users a much more compelling reason to upgrade.  Recently, though, operating system technology has stabilized, and people are more satisfied with the functionality and features they have, Cherry says. He compares the adoption curve to that of 64-bit processors, which didn't revolutionize the market in the way many pundits expected.

"There's just not a reason to rip and replace with new technology just because, for example, Intel and AMD or, in this case, Microsoft tells you to," he says. 

Sharon Linsenbach Sharon Linsenbach is a staff writer for eWEEK and eWEEK Channel Insider. Prior to joining Ziff Davis, Sharon was Assistant Managing Editor for CRN, a weekly magazine for PC and technology resellers. Before joining CRN, Sharon was an Acquisitions Editor for The Coriolis Group and later, Editorial Director with Paraglyph Press, both in Scottsdale, AZ. She holds a BA in English from Drew University and lives in the Philadelphia suburbs with her significant other and two neurotic cats. When she's not reading or writing about technology, Sharon enjoys yoga, knitting, traveling and live music. Sharon can be reached at Sharon.Linsenbach@ziffdavisenterprise.com.

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