Is big business ready to take on Vista?

In spite of the hype, we’ve seen little evidence of Windows Vista in the Computer Weekly office. IT directors I have spoken to in the last nine months have no intention to deploy the new Microsoft desktop operating system.

I suspect things will change in 2008, when Microsoft releases the first service pack. Last week I spoke to Michael Silver, a research vice president in Gartner, who expected take-up of Windows Vista to triple by the end of 2008.

Big businesses won’t upgrade unless there is a compelling reason. I’m not convinced by Microsoft’s claims of huge productivity gains. The only driver I can see is that XP will soon be reaching the end of mainstream support stage in its lifecycle.

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To be frank, although Windows Vista presents minor security advantages over XP, the disadvantages are too numerous to make it an attractive prospect. First, there is the issue of the hardware required - IT directors are not stupid, they are aware that XP, MacOS and indeed, Linux all run on today's hardware, rather than the significantly enhanced hardware required by Vista. Second, there is the de-emphasis of the OS in general: many of today's key enterprise applications are migrating to the web, and are thus OS-agnostic, making Vista unnecessarily weighty. Third, there are the usability issues with Vista itself. Deployment apart (which does appear to be easier than it was with XP), so annoying are the usability issues (e.g. the DRM system, the drivers) that increasing numbers of medium-sized businesses appear to be contemplating the move over to MacOS (which has equally capable deployment options), and enterprises are seriously considering Linux (which is now supported by enough experienced players to be worth more than a passing glance). Apart from MS Office and related applications (SharePoint), Vista has no compelling strengths that elevate it above the increasingly sophisticated competition - especially in view of the availability of well-designed and competitively priced solutions in the open-source space (see, for example, O3spaces). Furthermore, all the really interesting work on high-speed, quick-loading OS variants of the kind that will please today's increasingly mobile workforce is being done on Linux (and, albeit surreptitiously and behind the scenes, by Apple). There is now a yawning gap between Windows Vista and Windows Mobile, which shows no signs of being filled up in the near future (e.g. with a subnotebook-optimised variant - let's not even mention UMPCs).