Business users are now able to get their hands on Windows Vista and Office 2007. But do they want to?
A number of new features built into Vista are designed specifically to appeal to business users: new, tighter security controls and technologies; better mobile-device-synchronization capabilities; new enterprise-focused deployment tools; and improved, integrated search. Overall reliability improvements are a draw as well.
“It’s cool how I had a video driver crash the other day and it didn’t blue screen my machine,” said an IT administrator who requested anonymity, who works for a large, U.S.-based energy company that has been testing Vista for years.
Yet in spite of these new additions, many market watchers have cautioned that they don’t expect the bulk of business users to move to Vista until late next year, at best. Some have warned that they just don’t believe there are enough must-have features to convince customers to trade up from existing versions of Windows. Gartner, for example, consistently has cautioned business users not to plan to do large-scale Vista rollouts until 2008, at the earliest.
Microsoft officials, not too surprisingly, are considerably more upbeat in their Vista forecasts. Vista will be the fastest-selling version of Windows ever, they claim. Business customers who have been beta-testing the operating system will launch 60,000 worldwide seats of Vista simultaneously with this week’s product launch, according to Microsoft. That figure is 10 times the number of seats usually deployed by Windows users at launch, they said.
Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash.-based research outfit, said the first wave of long-term testers isn’t indicative of typical Vista adopters.
“I don’t think many companies have even begun evaluations, waiting for the final code,” Cherry said. “I think it takes about three to six months to perform an evaluation. Working with the [Vista deployment] tools to plan a deployment could take another three months. Therefore, it is likely that few upgrades will begin before mid-2007.”
Even corporate users who like what they see in Vista aren’t rushing to be on the deployment front lines.
Vista’s more robust group-policy management controls, desktop search capabilities and enhanced backup services are all interesting, said Bernie Robichau, network administrator and security officer with the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, based in Columbia, S.C.
However, “we’re not ready to be Vista guinea pigs,” Robichau said. “Introducing a new OS in the enterprise is a much bigger change than upgrading a productivity suite or a mail server. Not only are there user learning curves, but there are potential issues with networking and security that have a greater chance of impacting our users and productivity in general.”
“There are some nice productivity enhancements in Vista, but the paradigm change-and benefit-isn’t as great as, say, the move from Windows 3.1 to 95 or even from Windows 2000 to XP,” Robichau added. “We will be ready to upgrade six to18 months out if there is a business need, but we’re going to let the early adopters work out the bugs.”
-Mary Jo Foley is a freelance journalist who has covered Microsoft for more than a decade.