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Microsoft did not really emphasize such benefits at the November 30 business launch of Windows Vista, which I found surprising. Microsoft last released new versions of Office and Windows together in 1995. Simultaneous release is an unprecedented marketing opportunity: Businesses upgrading operating systems typically go to a newer productivity suite about the same time.

For larger businesses, though, the cycles are out of synch. Based on analyst data from firms like Gartner and IDC–and Microsoft’s own estimates–a major PC refresh cycle ended in 2006, following about two years of increased buying. During that same period, Office 2003 was new to market. The two-for upgrade, so to speak, was Office 2003 and Windows XP, for many businesses. So, new “better together” marketing will appeal less to businesses that recently upgraded PCs to Office 2003 and Windows XP.

Small businesses buying patterns don’t often mimic those of larger operations. Shops with under 50 and particularly under 10 employees don’t buy or deploy software and hardware the same way as larger businesses. They are less likely to buy through volume licensing and more likely to purchase when there is need, typically from retailers, resellers or direct from manufacturers.

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