Microsoft bullish on business adopting Vista

Uptake will be faster than with previous versions of Windows, Redmond says

In the first year of its release, Microsoft is expecting businesses to adopt Windows Vista twice as fast as any other version of Windows, with ten times as many Vista business seats deployed at launch than any previous release of the OS.

Despite this optimism, analysts still don’t expect businesses to begin adopting Vista in earnest until late 2007 or even 2008, with many waiting for the first service-pack version of Vista before they begin considering an upgrade.

One reason Microsoft is expecting Vista to be so successful is that the company has made a concerted effort to give customers the tools and training they need to adopt Vista across their businesses, says Brad Goldberg, general manager of the Windows Client Business Group at Microsoft. The company also put test versions of the OS into as many people’s hands as possible.

For the previous Windows migration, to Windows XP, Microsoft didn’t release important tools to help businesses upgrade — such as a compatibility toolkit to ensure existing applications would work — until Service Pack 2, which was released nine months after Windows XP shipped, he says. However, with Windows Vista, “We made the beta of the [compatibility] toolkit available with Windows Vista Beta 2,” he says.

Microsoft also has opened up test versions of the OS to a wide audience, making Release Candidate 1 (RC1) available to the public. Microsoft expects that at least five million users will have access to Vista RC1, all of whom the company has encouraged to provide feedback about the release so it can be as polished as possible before it goes out to business customers in November.

Another reason Microsoft expects businesses to warm to Vista early is that the company is doing its share to educate customers on how much money they can save by adopting it, Goldberg says. Microsoft has worked with analysts to develop customer case studies to see how much money business customers can save per PC by upgrading to Vista from their current OS.

Al Gillen, an analyst with research firm IDC, does not dispute Microsoft’s calculations for the return on investment (ROI) companies will make on Windows Vista, although he says that companies “don’t get the ‘R’ unless they put in the ‘I’ first.”

“The ROI story is exciting, but it requires that customers be mature and agile enough to do what they need to do afterwards,” Gillen says.

And while Microsoft may meet its ambitious first-year goals for Vista, that momentum will likely peter out, once pent-up demand has been met, Gillen says.

“Eighteen months out, the adoption curve will look like any other Windows product,” Gillen says. “It’s hard to move corporate customers faster than they are willing to go.”

Microsoft’s bullish projections don’t appear to jibe with most current third-party customer surveys, such as the online survey of 314 US IT professionals conducted in August by Computerworld US. Just 17% of IT professionals say they are considering rolling out Windows Vista in the first year. Forty-one percent of respondents have no plans to roll out Vista, while 35% will begin testing Vista only after it ships.

Of those who say they are considering rolling out Vista in the near or long-term, the largest group (29%) says the cost is the biggest determinant governing if and when they would upgrade. That was followed by the hardware requirements (16%), the amount of employee training (6%) and the amount of IT staff retraining (4%).

Even if Microsoft doesn’t meet its goals for Vista, it’s not likely to affect the company’s revenue. According to one financial analyst firm, Microsoft stands to lose only about US$400 million (NZ$607 million) in revenue in fiscal year 2008 if Vista business adoption does not go according to the company’s plan, and US$2 billion in fiscal year 2009. In its most recent fiscal year ended June 30, Microsoft reported more than US$44 billion in revenue. While the company is optimistic about adoption in its marketing, it is being far more conservative in its financial estimates, analysts say.

There is a downside for Microsoft. The longer Vista is available the more it will cost the company if businesses continue to hold off on adopting the OS. Any negative press or feedback on lacklustre Vista adoption could drive Microsoft’s stock price down, analysts say.

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