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Vista may still have its day

Eric Lai | Aug. 26, 2008
All of the griping about Vista and instant nostalgia for XP covers up a dry, statistical reality: XP itself was slow to catch on with users -- maybe even slower than Vista has been thus far.

Some of the reasons cited for Vista's supposed doom are unique to the new operating system. There's the widespread exercising of downgrade rights by users who purchase PCs with Vista but then revert to running XP. Mac OS X has taken some market share away from Windows over the past year. Cloud computing technologies offer new competition. And the scheduled 2010 arrival of Vista's successor, which Microsoft is calling Windows 7, looms on the horizon. Both Steward and Bowden said they will likely skip Vista entirely and wait for Windows 7.

But other strikes against Vista are ones that XP has also faced and overcome, such as a tottering economy (the dot-com bust, in XP's case), the belief that it was a piece of "bloatware," accusations of price gouging by Microsoft, and apathy or revolt by end users.

For most users, "change is always bad," said Merrie Wales, information systems manager in the human resources department in Glenn County, Calif. Wales, who oversees 250 desktop PCs, said that only a tiny portion of her users welcomed a move to Vista this spring. But, she noted, a similar sliver of users was happy when the agency finally upgraded to XP in 2006.

And the Vista rollout "has turned out much better than we anticipated," Wales said. "It's not a bad OS. There are big improvements under the hood."

There also are other factors that brighten the long-term outlook for Vista. Application virtualization technology is giving IT administrators new options for deploying software and avoiding compatibility problems. And with Vista, 64-bit computing finally appears to be catching on among more than just technology enthusiasts.

In addition, history tends to repeat itself. XP deployments eventually accelerated, reaching near-ubiquity by the time Vista finally debuted. Similarly, some industry observers expect rollouts of Vista to pick up -- even in the shadow of Windows 7 -- as a Vista SP2 arrives, companies refresh aging hardware and the end of mainstream support for XP next April draws closer.

For instance, Gartner expects Vista to be running on 49% of all PCs worldwide by the end of next year -- surpassing XP's market share, which the consulting firm forecasts at 44%.

Lundberg Family Farms in Richfield, Calif., is in the process of upgrading its 100 PCs to Vista. "We don't try to be at the cutting edge, but we don't want to be too far behind," said Todd Ramsden, Lundberg's IT manager. "Sooner or later, we knew we were going to have to move forward."

Ramsden added that his users have been "pretty good with going with the flow" on the rollout. "I've gotten some complaints about Vista," he said. "But most of the time, it turns out they're really complaining about some change in Office 2007."

 

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