by Laurianne McLaughlin

Intel Passes on Vista for Own Employees

Jun 27, 20084 mins
Enterprise Applications

Intel just came to the same conclusion about Vista that so many of you enterprise IT leaders have made. From Steve Lohr at the New York Times came the delicious tidbit this week: Intel will pass on upgrading most of its employees’ PCs to Microsoft Vista. They’re going to stick with Windows XP, having found no compelling reason to upgrade to Vista on a large scale.

When we asked you months ago, “Should Microsoft Throw Away Vista?,” readers made their feelings loud and clear: Many of you are going to pass, or stall as long as possible. “I wanted to love Vista,” one reader wrote. “Windows Vista is a lemon,” said another. And the beat goes on.

But Intel passing on Vista is another thing entirely: This is half of the Wintel empire. This is half of the team that ruled the 1990’s. This team co-wrote many of the core technology rules for corporate America, and for any technology vendor that wanted to play there.

And the same week that Bill Gates steps away from Microsoft leadership officially, we hear that Intel is passing on Microsoft’s problem child, Vista.

It’s like a pie in the face for Bill Gates, who at least was not in Belgium this week, where he has been famously and literally greeted with pie in the face before.

I read a lot of Bill Gates stories this week and realized that I regretted never having had a chance to interview him or meet him. The closest I came was once passing him in a hotel lobby, enveloped in a posse of handlers, at a Comdex show in Las Vegas, him looking typically tired and rumpled. (Comdex shows, to be fair, made everyone look tired and rumpled.)

I did once have a chance to meet former Intel leader Andy Grove, when I was covering microprocessors back in the 90’s. Even in a small group setting with some cranky reporters, the energy and intellect seemed to fly off the man. Intel was, and still is, a formidable organization of extremely smart people.

At that time, the Wintel duo of Grove and Gates seemed unstoppable. Inevitable. Destined to shape technology history for years to come. Yet here we are, in 2008, and Intel faces one of the same problems it had in the 90’s: There is still no “killer app” to get people excited about buying a new PC. Consumers buy new phones, cameras and BlackBerries more often than PCs. At the same time, more large enterprises are starting to salivate about the idea of replacing hundreds of desktop computers with virtual desktops, virtual machines living on a server in a back room.

And Intel is under the same IT budgetary pressure as everyone else, asking themselves if they can really justify the cost of the Vista upgrade for technology reasons.

Back in the days of Gates and Grove, I think Intel would not have passed on Microsoft’s new star operating system, for political reasons. One can only imagine the backroom sit-down that would have happened on this topic. I can see Grove staring down Tony Soprano himself. But I can also see Gates saying “All due respect, but you’re going to buy Vista.”

Lohr, at the Times, suggests maybe Steve Ballmer could still sell new Intel chief Paul Otellini on changing Intel’s Vista stance. We shall see, but even Ballmer’s crazy stare may not mesmerize today’s Intel.

I would never have guessed in the late 90’s that a Microsoft operating system like Vista, with all the power, might and money of the Microsoft marketing engine behind it, would stall like this one has.

Then again, I would have laughed if you’d told me then that my home computer in 2008 would be an Apple portable.

When people ask me about Vista for home PCs, my response is simple.

Why on earth would I want a PC with Vista? I have a new Macbook, and it is the most reliable, least frustrating computer that I have ever owned. It even looks good.

I also picked a Macbook out for my Mom, so I wouldn’t have to do her Windows tech support anymore.

Maybe it’s best I don’t get that Gates interview right now, after all.