Should Microsoft Throw Away Vista?

Throw Vista away. That's what my colleagues at our fellow IDG publication InfoWorld have now argued that Microsoft should do. Give it a dignified resting place, as a stepping-stone OS, and come up with a replacement that's more sensible for enterprise IT. There is historical precedent in the consumer OS space for such a move; look at Windows ME and how it became a footnote in Microsoft history.

"Microsoft should toss Vista in the trash, as the company did with Windows Millennium eight years ago, then issue a Windows XP Second Edition (as it did with Windows 98 eight years ago) that capitalizes on some of Vista's key benefits. Then the company should focus on Windows 7, rather than keep trying to push Vista down unwilling customers' throats. If that's too radical, how about doing an XP Second Edition while also continuing to rework Vista?" writes InfoWorld executive editor Galen Gruman, who created a petition that 100,000 people have now signed asking Microsoft to save Windows XP.

Bold ideas. But I have a feeling that some of you nodded your heads in agreement as you read them. As CIO has reported previously, many enterprise IT shops are holding out on Vista. CIOs in mid-market companies, in particular, often have aging hardware that would not play nicely with Vista, and can't afford a large-scale hardware refresh just for the OS. Also, they don’t want to deal with or pay for the necessary end-user training for Vista.

Other CIOs simply don’t believe that Vista will bring many useful benefits to their businesses.

Consider this comment, from a CIO who responded to one of my blog posts on Vista: "I'm a CIO. I've been using Vista on my Lenovo T60p since March 2007 and have wanted to be impressed and compelled to roll it out across my enterprise, but I'm neither impressed or compelled."

Or, consider how another reader of that same blog post explained why he was waiting on Vista: "Vista upgrade is not an upgrade, but wholesale replacement. The processor and memory requirements will give every CIO pause (just to keep performance level with existing levels), not to mention researching how many peripherals have to be replaced as well due to incompatibility issues. Vista will force many CIOs to consider Linux and Mac alternatives due to cost and compatibility issues in order to stay in budget...anyone remember Windows ME... it looks downright inviting in comparison."

Microsoft shook up the Vista marketing team recently, for reasons including botched public relations and marketing decisions. In one example, Microsoft is now fighting lawsuits alleging that its handling of the "Vista Capable" labeling program for consumer PCs was inept and unfair to PC buyers.

With all this as a backdrop, the long-awaited first service pack for Vista, SP1, became available yesterday, via Windows Update and the Microsoft site. If you have been using Vista, you'll probably be able to install this service pack, although Microsoft notes that some people won’t be able to do so quite yet, due to ongoing PC driver incompatibility problems. (See the complete details on Microsoft's Vista blog.)

Will this service pack solve some of the performance concerns? We'll see, as people test out the service pack this week. But even improved Vista performance won’t appease enterprise IT leaders concerned with hardware requirements and end user training.

A technology vendor that I met with this week asked me what I thought of the ongoing Microsoft and Yahoo merger talk. Microsoft buying Yahoo doesn't solve the Google Apps problem, I said. And it doesn’t solve the Vista problem.

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