Big businesses ignoring Vista, survey shows

Fewer than one in 11 of the PCs being used in large or very large enterprises run Windows Vista, according to survey results released Wednesday by Forrester Research Inc.

Of the 50,000 enterprise users surveyed by the Cambridge, Mass., analyst firm, 87.1 per cent were still running Windows XP at the end of June, compared to 8.8 per cent for Vista.

According to author Thomas Mendel, that implies that the majority of PCs upgraded to Vista were those running older versions of Windows, such as Windows 2000 or 98.

“Vista is new Coke,” Mendel wrote, comparing Microsoft’s flagship operating system to the ill-fated soft drink.

Enterprises still on the fence about Vista would be wise, he said, to “consider following the lead of Microsoft’s important partner Intel and re-evaluating the case of Vista.”

Last month Intel announced that it would not upgrade its PCs.

Some commentators are now speculating that Intel’s decision must have been particularly galling to Microsoft, as court documents show that Redmond may have launched its ill-fated “junk PC” Vista scheme at the behest of Intel.

Intel, reports said, decided that against upgrading its 80,000 PCs to Windows Vista after a lengthy analysis by its internal technology staff of the costs and potential benefits of moving to Windows Vista.

The OS has drawn fire from many customers as a buggy, bloated program that requires costly hardware upgrades to run smoothly.

Industry observers pointed out Microsoft’s “Vista Capable PC” scheme may have been launched specifically to help Intel meet its quarterly earnings by selling older Intel chipsets that couldn’t properly run Vista.

According to court documents released in a suit related to the scheme, Microsoft’s John Kalkman sent an e-mail to Scott Di Valerio, who was in charge of the company’s relations with PC makers, noting that the Vista Capable PC scheme was being launched on behalf of Intel: “In the end, we lowered the requirement to help Intel make their quarterly earnings so they could continue to sell motherboards with the 915 graphics embedded.”

Kalkman made it clear in the e-mail that it was a mistake to try and bail out Intel:

…it was a mistake on our part to change the original graphics requirements. This created confusion in the industry on how important the visual aspects of visual computing would play as a feature set to new Windows Vista upgraders.

Mendel’s comments, meanwhile, undercut the momentum for Vista claimed by Microsoft, which says it has sold 180 million licenses for its 18-month-old operating system to PC makers and end users.

But Vista still has double the share of Macs among big businesses, however. The share of Macs grew to 4.5 per cent in June from 3.7 per cent in January 2008; 80 per cent of those are Intel-based Macs.

Linux’s share of desktops fell significantly, according to Forrester, to 0.5 per cent in June from 1.8 per cent in January.

As a result, the analyst firm says, enterprise application developers need to “develop exclusively for Windows XP and Vista. Forget about Macs unless you’re aiming at a specific business vertical where Mac use is prevalent.”

Forrester’s study examined the Web browser as well as the desktop environments of the 50,000 users, spread out among 2,300 companies.

It found that 19.4 per cent of enterprise users are using Firefox, up from 16.8 per cent at the beginning of the year. Meanwhile, Microsoft Internet Explorer’s share only slipped slightly, from 79.1 per cent in January to 77.6 per cent at the end of June.

“At least make sure that applications work on Firefox as well as IE – this is a must,” Mendel wrote.

Apple Inc.’s Safari owns only a small slice of the market – 2.4 per cent – according to Forrester.

Both Flash and Java were nearly ubiquitous. Flash Player Version 9 was on 97 per cent of desktops, while Java was on 99.9 per cent of them. But application developers shouldn’t try too hard to jazz up their apps with Flash elements — “business users don’t want to hunt for navigation nor do they crave excitement,” Mendel wrote.

Forrester also discovered that despite ever-increasing screens and screen sizes, the largest slice — 34.1 per cent — of business users are using screens between 15 and 17 inches in size with resolutions of 1,024-by-768 pixels; another 25.2 per cent use screens between 17 and 19 inches in size with resolutions of 1,280-by-1,024 pixels.

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