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It’s been almost a year since Microsoft took the covers off its new operating system, Windows Vista. The Enterprise Edition launched to much fanfare from the software giant; however, the celebrations may have been short-lived as some VARs are reporting that even 12 months down the line deployment rates are low.

At Jenaly Technology Group, deployment rates have been very low, with less than 2 percent penetration in the company’s client base, according to M.J. Shoer, president and virtual chief technology officer of the MSP (managed service provider) and VAR. His company is still specifying XP Professional, at least until the end of the year, he said. “Most of our clients are not ready for wholesale upgrades, so continuing to install XP Professional ensures consistency across the organization and does not insert any learning curves.”

Others agreed. “Some end users are taking it up, but many dealers are only selling it because they are salesmen and must sell something,” said Mike Lawrence, managing director of U.K.-based VAR Bentpenny. “Vista appears not to be being pushed hard or accepted very easily by anyone except the devotees.”

Pointer Read here about Vista’s nine most annoying features.

The challenge seems to be the hardware upgrade and usability, according to Shoer. “The hardware requirements are certainly a concern and don’t make in-place upgrades very likely,” he said. “Aside from that, it’s mostly usability. Just like what we hear about Office 2007. ‘Why did they change that?’ followed not too long thereafter by, ‘I really like how they’ve changed that.’ It’s all about comfort zones and fear of change.”

The economic climate also isn’t helping, according to Lawrence. “Many end users have simply dug their heels in and said, ‘Not this time.’ They have bought ‘the latest’ several times now and really not had very much, if any, benefit. Interest rates are now rising, and they are sticking with what they already have,” he said.

Application compatibility is also cause for concern, said Marc Harrison, president of Silicon-East, a VAR, MSP and system builder serving the regional area between New York City and Philadelphia. “Line of business [LOB] app compatibility is a major problem,” he said. “But any industry LOB applications for health care, property management, people in the property management business or others cannot use Vista with those applications. It’s discouraging when you talk to software vendors about it there is no plan in place to make the LOB applications compatibility. It’s not like they feel any urgency to add compatibility.” He added that the fact that Microsoft keeps stretching the support date for XP compatibility isn’t helping because it takes the pressure off.

However, Harrison said he has seen improving deployment rates. His company was one of 10 Microsoft Small Business Partners participating in the software vendor’s “TAP” program that previewed Vista a year in advance of the release with up to four of their clients. “For the first few months the mix we sold was two-thirds XP and one-third Vista,” he said. “Three or four months ago it was half and half. Now we are getting close to two-thirds Vista and one-third XP. We’ve been strong proponents of people migrating to Vista.”

The change in the look and feel of the operating system and user reluctance to change has also been a challenge, despite the fact that VARs see the OS as a positive thing.

“It’s a stable operating system for sure,” said Shoer. “I have been running it for several months now and am very pleased with it. It is graphically more pleasing to work with, and I do believe it is easier to navigate than XP Professional and has some very nice features. Like any major operating system release, there are things that look and act differently, and that is what will worry most users. However, features like the built-in search are an incredible productivity boost. I think the benefits far outweigh the risks, but it really only makes sense on new hardware, as most existing hardware will require RAM upgrades at a minimum and may perform less than optimally with the new operating system.”

Harrison added: “The most positive thing is the user interface. People just really like it once they get used to it. It’s the No. 1 selling point. Of course, behind the scenes there is also more security and better patch management.”