Despite Gloom and Doom Predictions, Vista Gains Momentum

VARs shouldn’t start singing the Windows Vista blues just yet.  While Vista
hasn’t exactly revolutionized operating systems or changed the world with
software, it also hasn’t plummeted into a bottomless adoption gap as some
analysts claimed it would.  And if solution providers give Vista
another chance, they just might find themselves singing a different tune.

In April 2008, a year after Vista’s original release,
Bill Gates told a Tokyo audience
that Vista had racked up 140 million sales, proof that
the OS has been selling "at a rapid pace," one that beat out Windows
XP’s sales rate a year after that OS launched.

Michael Cherry, senior analyst with independent firm Directions on
Microsoft, says first of all that it’s best to take Gates at his word, since
there’s no good reason for Microsoft to "fudge sales numbers or play fast
and loose with words." But Cherry also notes that XP adoption by
businesses was also somewhat disappointing until Service Pack 2 shipped.

"They’re saying that Vista sales are tracking
with XP sales in the same time period, but what everyone’s forgetting is that
XP got off to a slow start, too," Cherry says. 

Research firm IDC’s recent report on
Vista, released just after SP1 shipped in February 2008, shows that adoption
rates for the OS aren’t as dismal as conventional wisdom and public perception
would have you believe.  IDC predicted
in October 2006 that first-year Vista consumer
sales would account for about 34 percent of total 2007 Windows COE
(client operating environment) sales, and that Vista’s
business versions would be 22 percent of total Windows COE
sales.

The actual numbers, according to IDC’s
March 2008 report "Worldwide Windows Client Operating Environments
2008–2012 Forecast: Windows Vista Momentum Picks Up Steam," by analysts Al
Gillen and Brett Waldman, were not that far off the mark: Windows Vista
consumer sales were 36 percent of the 2007 total, while business versions were
18 percent of the total for Windows COE
sales.

These numbers are nothing to sneeze at, but they still failed to live up to
the hype Microsoft itself built up around Vista before
its release.  According to the IDC
report, "Microsoft’s PR machine elevated expectations to lofty
objectives."  But the massive install base, software that was more
compatible with XP than Vista and a solid channel pretty
much doomed Vista to an adoption rate no faster than
previous products.  As the IDC report
puts it, "A worldwide frenzy on the scale of the Windows 95 launch a
decade ago, it was not."

Cherry says that’s not surprising.  In the past, with upgrades such as Windows
95 and 98, major OS and hardware changes gave end users a much more compelling
reason to upgrade.  Recently, though, operating system technology has
stabilized, and people are more satisfied with the functionality and features
they have, Cherry says. He compares the adoption curve to that of 64-bit
processors, which didn’t revolutionize the market in the way many pundits
expected.

"There’s just not a reason to rip and replace with new technology just
because, for example, Intel and AMD or, in
this case, Microsoft tells you to," he says. 

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