The Save XP Campaign

Businesses saying a stronger no to Vista

Hardware costs, driver problems, application incompatibilities, and more -- you've heard the litany of complaints about Windows Vista before, but perhaps you thought IT would roll over and move to Microsoft's new OS as Microsoft expects. You'd be wrong: IT is not moving to Vista.

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Hardware costs, driver problems, application incompatibilities, and more -- you've heard the litany of complaints about Windows Vista before, but perhaps you thought IT would roll over and move to Microsoft's new OS as Microsoft expects. You'd be wrong: IT is not moving to Vista, at least not in the numbers the software giant had hoped.

A just-released survey by Sanford Bernstein & Co., a Wall Street investment bank, finds that support for (that is, planned adoption of) Vista in small, medium, and large businesses has slipped substantially in the last year. "The inescapable conclusion of our 2008 survey is that support for Vista has been battered across all enterprise sizes and corporate constituencies. As a consequence, the Vista cycle looks likely to be materially less robust than indicated in our prior survey," writes Bernstein research analyst Charles Di Bona.

[ Get the latest on InfoWorld's "Save XP" efforts and add your voice. ]

The numbers are striking. In 2007, just under 31 percent of the IT execs surveyed figured they would upgrade to Vista within two years; in the current survey, that total dropped to 8.1 percent. Even more dramatically, just 20 percent of the execs now expect to have deployed Vista three years after its launch, down from 67.6 percent a year ago.

Any survey can be open to question, but this one was led by an analyst who does not have an axe to grind about Microsoft. Indeed, Di Bona has an outperform rating (equivalent to "buy") on the company and figures the stock should hit $41 a share, well up from its current price of about $28. The survey was conducted by Bernstein, Ziff Davis Media, and Peerstone Research.

The researchers queried 372 IT professionals with input into and control over PC-related decisions regarding their adoption of Vista. The respondents were well distributed among small, medium, and large enterprises that collectively own nearly 2.7 million PCs, some 95 percent of which are Windows machines.

Flunking the compatibility test

Perhaps typical of the Vista rejecters is Gary Roberts, director of information technology services at Alfred University, a medium-size college in western New York. Earlier this year, Roberts asked his staff to road test Vista on half a dozen machines and give him a recommendation about deployment. The answer? Wait a least a year.

The biggest issue was a compatibility problem with two critical, vertical applications. (He asked me not to mention the names of the applications as a courtesy to his vendors.) It appeared that there was a problem related to Vista's use of Java to load Web-based applications. "It wasn't insurmountable, but it gave us pause," he says.

Before making a final decision, Roberts posted a query in a listserv frequented by the CIOs of other universities and found that his colleagues were overwhelmingly negative about Vista. By a four-to-one margin, the execs said they had no plans to deploy Vista for at least six months.

"I don't have the staff to be on the bleeding edge," says Roberts, adding that he'll stick with Windows XP for now and make another assessment at the end of the year.

Roberts didn't mention the cost of buying the beefier PCs needed to run Vista, but the execs surveyed by Bernstein certainly did. In fact, the stiffer hardware requirements, followed closely by application compatibility issues, were the factors most influential in deciding not to upgrade. The higher price of Vista was another major issue, along with performance, ease of use, and problems finding drivers.

One surprise: Security did not show up as a major negative; on the contrary, of the execs surveyed, more than half of those most favorable to Vista listed security (the BitLocker disk encryption capability in particular) as a positive.

Microsoft has its say

The steady drumbeat of negative publicity is obviously a big factor in the reluctance to deploy Vista in the enterprise. Microsoft, of course, is well aware of the image problem but is still proceeding with its plan to begin the phaseout of XP at the end of the month.

Since InfoWorld (and I) have been beating the drums to save XP, I think it's only fair to present at least some of Microsoft's arguments. Here are a few bullet points and a page that presents them in more detail.

* Windows Vista now supports 77,000 printers, cameras, speakers, and other devices and components.

* More than 2,700 software programs are now certified to work on Windows Vista, including 97 of the top 100 consumer applications.

* 62 percent of small business said Windows Vista saves them time, and 70 percent said that it makes them more productive, according to an independent survey.

* More than 140 million copies of Windows Vista have already sold, making it the fastest-selling operating system in Microsoft history. (That number is of all Vista licenses sold, but it does not subtract the enterprises, businesses, or individuals who have "downgraded" those licenses by reinstalling XP. That's common practice in large enterprises, and Microsoft also provides this option for individuals and small businesses.)

It's worth noting that there are still a number of options to acquire XP for business.

And it's not too late to make your voice heard. Join the more than 200,000 other people who have signed the petition demanding that Microsoft keep XP for sale beyond June 30 and find out why XP is so worth saving.

(Disclosure: I own a small number of Microsoft shares.)

I welcome your comments, tips and suggestions. Reach me at bill_snyder@infoworld.com.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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