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It’s not easy being Windows Vista. Not only do Microsoft partners report that business demand is next to nil, but managed services providers also are saying they want their customers to wait.

Too many unanswered questions remain about hardware requirements, security implications and compatibility with existing business applications, MSPs say. And since the role of MSPs is largely preventive, they are urging caution.

MSPs monitor and manage customer systems over the Web, in many cases doing application and security updates without having to visit customer sites. If customers were to experience complications and downtime after installing Vista, chances are they would require site visits for remediation. Such a prospect has little appeal for MSPs, who charge customers fixed fees for IT services and see their margins erode whenever they make unscheduled site visits.

Scott Goemmel, executive vice president at PMV Technologies, in Troy, Mich., said that although Vista brings “fantastic” benefits and figures, it has a significantly different user interface. In addition, questions remain about the compatibility of certain files for companies that concurrently use Vista and its predecessor operating system, Windows XP.

Click here to read about why some VARs have found Microsoft’s Vista launch support disappointing.

“We are advising our customers that unless there is a pressing reason to take advantage of the new functionality, that we wait a while for two reasons,” Goemmel said. “One is to ensure [that] the version is stable, and, two, [in order] to develop a training plan that will ease the end user interruption associated with the different user interface and ensure [that] we have a defined plan to take advantage of new functionality relevant to their business.”

Gary Wiseman, president of MasterIT, an MSP in Bartlett, Tenn., also said his company is advising clients to wait. “We historically have always recommended to our clients to wait on new Microsoft Operating Systems because traditionally Microsoft has always had problems with first releases of anything,” Wiseman said.

“Even if the OS was correct the first time out of the gate, there is no telling what other applications may be incompatible,” he said. “Our approach is to try out Microsoft’s new OS in our environment on a non-production computer and see what, if any, problems arise.”

Despite the questions that MSPs get from customers about Vista, demand from business customers is minimal.

“We are not seeing any demand at all at this point in time from our customers, so we are taking a wait-and-see position until that demand appears,” said Chuck Lennon, president of TeamLogic IT, a franchisor of managed services businesses, based in Mission Viejo, Calif.

Uncertainty about the operating system remains, and while some Microsoft partners believe they can turn that uncertainty into dollars, for the most part customers will wait to adopt Vista.

Chad Gniffke, director at InHouseIT, an MSP in Costa Mesa, Calif., said his company is recommending that customers hold off on migrating to Vista because of incompatibilities with third-party applications.

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InHouseIT uses the managed services platform from Kasey International to connect remotely with clients. Kaseya the week of Jan. 22 released an update of its platform that includes support for Vista.

Adoption of Vista is inevitable, Gniffke said, but InHouseIT is asking customers to wait at least six or seven months before embarking on any migration plans.

Goemmel said he believes most of his customers will start migrating in 2008, though some may decide to do so earlier because of business needs.

Wiseman said he is in no hurry, and he pointed to Microsoft’s own delays in releasing Vista as another reason to wait.

“Vista was originally slated for release in July 2005, which is telling in itself,” he said. “They must have had a great [number] of problems, to delay the release time and time again.”

Staff writer Jessica Davis contributed reporting to this story.