Microsoft expects enterprise Vista to spur consumer sales

The consumer and small business launch of Microsoft’slatest operating system will make IT managers take notice, but itwon’t accelerate migration plans in the enterprise, according to oneanalyst.

Microsoft Canada held the consumer and small business launch of Windows Vista at an 1,800-square-foot ice house in Yonge-Dundas Square in downtown Toronto Monday. The house is open to the public throughSaturday.

“What we wanted to do with the ice house was show howpeople could use Windows Vista in the individual rooms of the house,” said Microsoft Canada product manager Elliot Katz. “What’s moreiconic in Canada than an ice house?”

The house was put together in a week, put it took four months of planning and preparing the 270,000 pound of ice.

Enterprise volume licence buyers have been able to get theirhands on Vista since November. Those who buy their OS shrink-wrapped or on an OEM machine, like many small businesses, can get it now. “(For) a lot of businesses, when they refresh their PCs is when they buy a new operating system,” Katz said.

That said, the two-year delay in Vista’s launchdidn’t benefit Microsoft by moving it further into the refreshcycle.

“Different organizations refresh at different times,” Katz said. “Our business customers have told us we shouldn’t wait five years between releases, and we won’t do that again,”Katz said.

The high-profile launch again brings focus to Vista. Will the consumer launch accelerate enterprise Vista upgrade planes? Info-Tech market analyst Carmi Levi said despite the new attention, there’s more to an enterprise upgrade path than that.

The consumer launch provides another opportunity for enterprise managers “to stand up and notice Vista,” Levi said. But “migration decisions for operating systems are not based on what’s on sale at the local big box electronics store,” hesaid.

Timelines for enterprise adoption are significantly longer. The applications need to be completely tested, the users need to be retrained, infrastructure needs to be updated, hardware needs to be rolled over. There are some significant milestones that need to be met before the enterprisecan adopt anew version of an operating system, especially one as complex as Vista is.”

While SMBs tend to refresh their operating systems when they buy new hardware, larger operations go through a testing and deployment processthat takes closer to 18 months, Katz said.

But while consumer converts clamouring for enterprise adoption won’t budge business timelines, there’s more influence in the opposite direction – day-to-day users of Vista at the office will be inclined to upgrade at home, he said.

“As Vista becomes more prevalent in the enterprise space — and let’s not kid ourselves, it will go on to become the dominant operating system in both the enterprise and consumer markets – once it becomes more dominant in the enterprise space … it will have aninfluencing effect on employees who use it every day and then decide toupgrade their machine at home,” Katz said. “We saw a similar effect when XP took root in the business and employees wanted to make sure their PCs at home kept up with their PCs at the office.”

Aside from that, the fact that OEMs will be shipping Vista-based machines means consumers will be upgrading when they buy new hardware, he said.

“In fact, it’ll happen faster there, because it’s virtually a given that if you buy a new PC starting February, then it will run Vista. Relatively few people would ever downgrade (to XP),” he said.

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Dave Webb
Dave Webb
Dave Webb is a technology journalist with more than 15 years' experience. He has edited numerous technology publications including Network World Canada, ComputerWorld Canada, Computing Canada and eBusiness Journal. He now runs content development shop Dweeb Media.

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