Burton Group executive strategist Ken Anderson suggested that the strong emotional identification with XP represented a fundamental shift in how people, including IT staff, now think of operating systems. They have become a familiar extension of what we do and how we work, thus not something we want to change often. "When technology becomes part of you, you don't want people to mess with it," he said.
Anderson likened the reaction to XP's impending demise to what happened in the 1980s when Coca-Cola replaced its classic Coke formula with New Coke, causing massive protests by customers who had no reason to change what they drank. The protests forced the company to bring back what we now call Coke Classic. "XP has come to the point of being Coke Classic," he said, with Vista playing the role of New Coke.
The further the better
The Englewood (N.J.) Hospital Medical Center switched to Vista shortly after its enterprise release, since it had been in Microsoft's early adopter program. Most users — mainly nurses and other medical staff — didn't really notice the upgrade and had few complaints, noted Gary Wilhelm, the business and systems financial manager (a combination of CTO and CFO) at the 2,500-employee facility. That's because they don't really use the OS, but instead work directly in familiar applications that load when they sign in using their ID.
Capacitor manufacturer Kemet saw a similar ho-hum reaction from most of its staff, says Jeff Padgett, the global infrastructure manager. And for the same reason: Users have little direct interaction with the OS. But the staff did push back on Office 2007, whose ribbon interface is a departure from the previous versions. They rebelled to the degree that Padgett has delayed Office 2007 deployment and may not install it at all.
Back at the Englewood hospital, Wilhelm did hear anti-Vista grumbling from people in the administration department, who work more closely with the OS itself for file management and so on. And at Kemet, another group of hands-on users complained about the switch to Vista, noted Padgett: "The people who suffered the most were engineers and IT people."
The phenomenon of hands-on users being the most resistant explains why so many small-business users and consultants have reacted so strongly against Vista, noted Gartner's Silver.
Conversely, those enamored of the latest technology tend to be Vista enthusiasts, said David Fritzke, IT director at the YMCA Milwaukee, which has been adding Vista to its workforce as it buys new computers. "Some users bought Vista for home and then wanted it more quickly at work than we had initially planned to deploy it," he said. Fritzke also found that younger users adapted to Vista more easily.
In search of ROI
Users' personal reactions, positive or negative, ultimately impact the bottom line and help drive the business decision of whether to roll out Vista across an organization.
It's all about basic cost-benefit analysis, says Gartner's Silver. In most businesses, Vista offers few compelling advantages for users while introducing challenges. The cost of change is too high for the perceived benefit. For example, users often complain about Vista's constant nagging about possible system threats, about applications that no longer run, or about files that appear to be "lost" because they've been moved to new places by the OS, Silver said.