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Users Likely to Drag Feet on Vista Rollouts

New OS won’t surpass Windows XP in business use until 2010, Gartner says

By Eric Lai
December 4, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Microsoft Corp. no doubt wishes all companies were like Sasfin Bank Ltd. when it comes to installing Windows Vista.

Sasfin plans to start upgrading to Windows Vista by next March and have all 430 of its employees running the new operating system by the end of 2007. “We have a very spoiled user base,” said Dawie Olivier, project manager for IT at the Johannesburg, South Africa-based commercial bank.

Olivier said last week that as part of Sasfin’s normal three-year hardware-refresh cycle, he intends to bring in new PCs with Vista for one-third of the bank’s users. He plans to retrofit the remaining computers with more memory and faster video cards so the systems can handle Vista’s beefed-up requirements.

“It’s not cost-effective for us to support multiple operating systems just because we’re shy about cracking open a few PC cases,” Olivier said.

But Sasfin is an exception to what analysts predict will be the rule: Despite Microsoft’s splashy launch of Vista last week, the operating system will only slowly infiltrate businesses over the next four years.

Sticking With XP

By the end of 2007, less than 5% of all PCs worldwide will sport a business-oriented version of Windows Vista, according to a forecast by Gartner Inc. In comparison, the consulting firm predicted, 47% will be running Windows XP Professional, and nearly 10% will still have Windows 2000 Professional, which will be seven years old by that point.

Gartner said it expects the percentage of PCs running a business flavor of Windows Vista to rise to 15% of the overall total by the end of 2008. But that will still be dwarfed by the 40% on Windows XP Pro, it said. And Gartner doesn’t expect the number of business PCs running Vista to exceed the number with XP until 2010.

Microsoft is trying its best to nudge business customers into action, touting Vista’s easier deployment and manageability and its stronger security.

But Gartner analyst Michael Silver said that likely won’t persuade most companies to deviate from their normal routines — staggered cycles of three to five years for hardware replacement.

“More than half of our clients are telling us that they’re only bringing in Vista as part of their regular hardware refresh,” Silver said. Indeed, he expects many companies to exercise the “downgrade rights” in their Software Assurance contracts with Microsoft next year so they can still order new PCs with Windows XP Pro. As a result, Gartner expects 22% of all PCs sold in 2007 to come with that operating system.

Source: Gartner Inc.
Source: Gartner Inc.

About half of the PCs now used by North American businesses fall below Windows Vista’s minimum system requirements, according to an automated survey of systems conducted from June through September by Softchoice Corp. And nearly eight of 10 business PCs would need additional memory to run Vista features such as the Aero 3-D “glass” interface, according to data the Toronto-based technology reseller gathered from more than 112,000 PCs at 472 companies and organizations.

To get all 750 of its Windows users onto Vista next year, FranklinCovey Co. plans to upgrade about two-thirds of its PCs to a minimum of 1GB of RAM and replace the rest of the systems, said Dan See, director of infrastructure at the time management products maker in Salt Lake City.

But FranklinCovey, which took part in Microsoft’s Technology Adoption Program for Vista, has its limits. See has no plans to upgrade the video cards in existing PCs — and that might prevent users from taking advantage of Aero 3-D. “The expense of updating all of the video cards is prohibitive,” he said.

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