Vista launch starts upgrade clock ticking

Compatibility worries make IT Pros Vista-shy

Moses crossing the desert. The Red Sox breaking the curse of the Bambino. Microsoft getting shrink-wrap around a Vista box. All involved more than their share of blood, sweat, toil, and tears. But for the folks out in Redmond, Wash., the day has finally arrived: Vista is shipping to consumers Jan. 30.

Vista has been available to enterprises since November, but many small and midsize companies have been waiting for the January launch, as well as firms that aren’t part of Microsoft’s Software Assurance program, a prerequisite for the November download. Microsoft has high hopes that the Tuesday release will kick off an upgrade frenzy among consumers and enterprises.

“Vista is not just feature rich, but highly reliable as soon as it ships out the door,” said Brad Goldberg, Microsoft’s general manager for the Windows client. “With XP, we were in double-digit adoption rates two years after the OS shipped. With Vista, we expect much faster adoption rates.”

Business owners are less certain. Some, including John Nabholz, an IT exec at a 350-person company, is hoping to move to Vista by summer 2007, citing remote access performance boosts as his reason for migration. But Richard Feldman, an IT manager at OWOL Consulting, said there’s no way he’s moving to Vista right away.

“We purchased 250 desktops in 2004 and they run XP just fine,” Feldman said. “But they don’t have enough memory, CPU, or video to run Vista.”

Microsoft says most PCs purchased within the past two years should be able to run Vista. But Redmond is also being careful not to spook customers. Last week, it said it would offer extended support for XP Home and Media Center Editions through 2014, matching the support term for XP Professional.

But that hasn’t stopped Microsoft and other companies in the upgrade food chain from promoting upgrades as soon as humanly possible.

Intel spokesman Greg Bryant, vice president of the Business Client Group, for example, flat out recommends new hardware for Vista, citing specific improvements in its new embedded graphics subsystems, allowing new notebooks, especially value-class machines, to run Vista’s full graphic experience. Intel’s new Core 2 Duo CPUs also contain specific improvements for Vista and Office 2007, with Intel citing an increase of as much as 300 percent in the speed of an Excel calculation.

But even with pressure coming from both Microsoft and its hardware partners to purchase new Vista infrastructure in 2007, most Microsoft customers are moving at their own pace.

The desktop security company Bit9 said that a survey it sponsored of 137 IT professionals suggests that 68 percent will wait six months to one year to upgrade to Vista. The main obstacles are fears of hardware and software incompatibility, the company said.

“It’s about software, really ... everything else is just hype,” said Paul Lindo, CIO of FB2. “Once our mission-critical software can run on Vista reliably, we’ll start to move. Hardware costs are hardware costs. Moving before the software is safe, though, is suicide. No matter what kinds of performance boosts you can get.”

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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