Corporations Look Before They Leap to Vista

By John G. Spooner  |  Print this article Print


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Although Microsoft is bringing Windows Vista for enterprises out in November, ahead of the operating system's general release, IT managers won't be rushing to adopt it.

Large businesses will get the first crack at upgrading to Microsoft's new Windows Vista operating system. But chances are that they'll still be the last to widely adopt it.

Microsoft on March 21 said it would delay the general release of Windows Vista, which had been expected to come out this fall, to January.

The company chalked this decision up to caution about not wanting to affect PC makers' fourth-quarter consumer PC business with a possible missed ship date.

Businesses, which have no such concerns, will be able to get the code to upgrade from older versions of Windows to the new Vista operating system in November, however, Microsoft said.

But the chances of workers getting an upgrade to the new operating system at work before they get the opportunity to buy one for home are slim at best, several IT managers told eWEEK.

"Our upgrade policy for Microsoft software … as well [as] with most vendors, is to hold off on deploying into production a new software release for a minimum of six months after a major product release," said Tom Miller, an eWEEK Corporate Partner and senior direction of IT at FoxHollow Technologies, in Redwood City, Calif.

"As compelling as some new features may be, we need to test compatibility with other applications and factor in training and resources required for planning and deploying the upgrade," in addition to timing it with other software releases such as Office, Miller said.

Indeed, corporations, which are normally cautious about rolling out new operating systems, aren't likely to move any more quickly to Vista than they did to Windows XP, which came out in 2001 but which analysts say took several more years to wind its way onto business desktops en masse—and, in fact, analysts say many companies are still on Windows 2000, and some even use Windows NT.

Click here to read more about Microsoft's rationale for delaying the release of Vista.

Many will begin testing soon in order to be sure of issues such as application compatibility. But they are likely to wait to adopt until Microsoft releases the first Vista service pack, which will include updates and bug fixes. Microsoft typically doesn't release its first service pack for about a year after rolling out a new operating system.

Given the wait for the service pack and the amount of evaluation and testing work required, "It will probably be at least one year before we would even consider some form of an upgrade," Miller said. "That would need to be balanced … with the release of the new Microsoft Office suite."

Other IT managers said they would take an equally cautious approach to the upgrade.

"Once we decide to start working with Vista, we will test it in a lab environment and if all goes well we will then roll it out on a limited basis until we are sure there are no major issues," said Ed Benincasa, vice president of MIS at FN Manufacturing, in Columbia, S.C., and an eWEEK Corporate Partner.

Next Page: Vista's hardware requirements also inspire caution.

Vista's hardware requirements, which are still somewhat amorphous, are likely to be another focus of intense investigation by IT managers. To date, Microsoft has provided minimum configuration data for so-called Vista-capable PCs, with requirements such as relatively current processors and chip sets and at least 512MB of RAM.

But little has been said on what type of system will run high-end features well, such as Vista's Aero Glass 3-D user interface features.

"We will only pilot [Vista] until probably the first service pack comes out," said Robert Rosen, CIO of the National Institute of Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases in Bethesda, Md., and an eWEEK Corporate Partner.

"We are particularly concerned about the increased graphics requirement, so we will need to do a fair amount of testing to ensure that it doesn't bog down the systems too much with our current hardware."

Rosen said his group typically runs a pilot by placing an operating system on a few power users' machines to see what types of trouble they might experience, in addition to evaluating deployment, training and other related issues, before deciding to upgrade.

Miller, too, said the potential impact on current desktop and laptop computers must be assessed. PC makers could help by offering a breakdown of how their different model configurations would match up with the different capabilities offered by Vista, he said.

Some IT managers put it even more bluntly.

"Software products have a history of slipping," said Judy Brown, an IT consultant and eWEEK Corporate Partner, in Madison, Wisconsin. "We'll believe it when we see it."

"We have not plans to roll this out anytime soon," said another manager, who asked not to be named. "So they should delay it until it works."

Still, some have expressed hope that Vista would spur corporate PC hardware upgrades.

Dell Chairman Michael Dell, for one, has said Vista might bump sales to corporations, as people who use the new operating system at home might also demand it at work.

"I believe this transition is going to be a pretty powerful catalyst," Dell, in Round Rock, Texas, said during the PC maker's fourth-quarter earnings discussions. After using the operating system, he suggested, people will go back into the office and ask, "'How come my PC is no good?'"

But most industry observers said they believe it will be well into 2007, at a minimum, before most companies take the plunge.

Leslie Fiering, an analyst at Gartner Group, in Stamford, Conn., said in an interview last year that businesses are likely to allow at least six months after the operating system's final code. Most will wait 12 to 18 months, giving them extra time for testing and allotting for the delivery of a service pack.

"None of the clients that we're talking to are planning to jump Day One. Most are planning to give it 12 months," Fiering said in that interview. That means they'll wait until the end of 2007 or the middle of 2008 to upgrade, she said.

Check out eWEEK.com's for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.

John G. Spooner John G. Spooner, a senior writer for eWeek, chronicles the PC industry, in addition to covering semiconductors and, on occasion, automotive technology. Prior to joining eWeek in 2005, Mr. Spooner spent more than four years as a staff writer for CNET News.com, where he covered computer hardware. He has also worked as a staff writer for ZDNET News.

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