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The countdown for the release of Windows Vista keeps ticking, and the expectations—from outward appearances—seem to be growing. The signs are that Microsoft and Vista very early adopters expect some kind of community groundswell to take place around the launch and maybe even before. But based on reader reaction, the event planners should be able to take the day off.

Since it couldn’t find a way to release Vista before the holidays, Microsoft is trying to beat the drum in advance of the scheduled January rollout. It’s heading into overdrive with a road tour as well as a compatibility branding program for systems and peripherals.

While business customers will be able to run Vista in November, consumers will be able to pick and choose between devices and software that simply “work with” Vista or that are “certified for Windows Vista,” which means that the product takes advantage of Vista in some unique way.

On Oct. 12, Microsoft executives pitched DigitalLife conference attendees on Vista compatibility. Click here to read more.

Certainly, expectations must be high for the testers in the Release Candidate program. And Microsoft said it expects that 10 times more seats of Vista will be deployed at launch than were with earlier flavors, with deployment within the first year being twice as quick as that for any other version.

But will there be some groundswell of consumer support for Vista? Will folks be lining up the night before, standing in the cold to be the first on their block with Redmond’s next-generation operating system?

Does Microsoft somehow believe that it can pull the same reaction out of its installed base for an OS update as Apple does with its customers? There is little doubt that Mac OS X users will be lining up outside Apple stores next year when Tiger ships.

Should Microsoft take a page from Apple’s book when it comes to OS transitions? Read more here.

Based on customer expectations in my mailbox, no way. Microsoft expectations for an immediate win in the numbers game may be heading for disappointment.

According to Jeff Rankin-Lowe, author and professional photographer, the corporate IT managers, hard-core gamers and tech-heads make up a small but influential part of the potential market for computers (and thus Windows Vista). But Microsoft has done a “terrible job of marketing” Vista to the masses.

“Joe and Jane Average are a huge part of the user base, and MS hasn’t convinced them that they need Vista. They think all [Vista’s] visual razzle-dazzle is just that, and they see no need to pay lots of money for a new OS and a new computer with enough power for a hundred average people. … All the extra bells and whistles of Vista—which is what they think it’s all about—will be seen as distractions and most people not only won’t be interested, they’ll avoid it,” Rankin-Lowe said.

“Unless MS convinces Joe and Jane Average that Vista is much, much more than a pretty face, it’ll be a very hard thing to sell to them,” he concluded.

Next Page: Fear of workflow disruption.

Meanwhile, most business users will be slow to adopt anything that could disrupt an established workflow. But the changes also hit hard for developers and customers in vertical markets.

eWEEK Labs tests show that Vista is ready to come out fighting. Click here to read more.

“My major fear in any version upgrade is unexpected interruption of function,” reader Robert Geller observed. As a physician, he is concerned about support for legacy devices and software. And then there’s the patient.

“All too often, products have seemed to work in a new environment at first glance. Only later is the discovery made that some feature of the old product doesn’t work anymore, after the damage is already in process. In high-priority environments like health care, such interruptions are unacceptable. So, changes to new versions are deferred until extensive end-user experience has occurred,” Geller said.

However, for some readers Vista is just too much trouble, especially in business. The ROI in the upgrade is difficult for some customers to see at this time.

For example, here’s what one IT manager at a “small telecom company” said about the Vista transition:

“My business is keeping this business operating. We are not in business to provide a continuing revenue stream to Microsoft or any other vendor. I have better and more important things to do than to be constantly updating and changing software for no reason other than it’s the latest and greatest smoke and mirrors from Redmond. Our basic philosophy is: If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it,” the IT manager said.

“I have just completed upgrading our small office from Win95/Win98 to WinXP, solely because ‘The Boss’ wanted to be able to play videos and connect to an MP3 service. Windows XP buys us nothing that is important to our basic business, and was, to my mind, a waste of time and money. We definitely are not going to move to ‘Vista’ or ‘Longhorn’ or whatever idiotic name Bill Gates comes up with next,” he concluded.

What does Microsoft owe its customers in the area of compatibility? Click here to read more.

Well, for some Windows 95 is still good enough. But for most, Windows XP is good enough, thank you very much. Instead of the new and shiny OS, many readers said that they wanted a “better XP.”

Perhaps Microsoft would have better luck at rollout time by pitching Vista as “Service Pack 3.” It could happen.

What do you think? Will Vista climb to the top of the charts right off, or will it take some time to find a following? And how long? Let us know here.

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