Businesses in No Rush to Adopt Vista

June, 2008

Microsoft’s release of Service Pack 1 for Windows Vista should motivate organizations to take a closer look at the now year-old operating system. However, the preliminary results from our annual IT Staffing, Spending, and Technology Trends survey indicate that most organizations are still not including Vista in their plans for 2008. Many are not even planning, as yet, for an eventual migration. As such, widespread adoption of Vista could still be a year or more away, which raises the possibility that Microsoft could begin to see its dominant share of the corporate desktop market erode with this desktop upgrade cycle. IT managers, nevertheless, need to be preparing for an eventual transition to a new desktop environment.

This Research Byte is a summary of our full report, Microsoft Vista Migration Still Slow in 2008. The full version of this report examines adoption levels and plans for Vista by organization size. We also assess the improvements that Service Pack 1 brings, and we compare Vista’s adoption trends to those of desktop Linux, which is one alternative to Microsoft’s platform. We conclude with our perspective on the issues surrounding Vista adoption.

Computer Economics Viewpoint
While the availability of SP1 will improve Vista adoption levels, businesses are still in no rush to migrate to Vista. Nor should they be. Migrations are expensive, disruptive, and entail risk. There are few compelling reasons for moving to Vista, and there is no evidence that Vista delivers any kind of return on investment.

However, because the release of Vista SP1 also signals the approach of an end to Microsoft’s support for Windows XP, a transition to a new desktop OS is all but inevitable. Microsoft says mainstream support will continue until April 2009 and support under its extended support policy will continue until April 2014. At some point, the cost of maintaining aging systems will outweigh the cost of migration. As organizations upgrade hardware to faster multicore processors, one barrier to migration will be removed. Applications, devices, and device drivers are becoming increasingly available, removing yet another obstacle. And the release of SP1 appears to be a solid, if incremental improvement, over the initial Vista release. Organizations that are not ready to make the move should, at least, be laying the groundwork.

While it is not surprising that only a few organization are moving ahead with Vista, we are surprised by the number of organizations in our study that report “no activity” with regards to their implementations. This not only indicates that widespread adoption may be longer than some have predicted, but that there could be an opening for alternatives, such as desktop Linux. The full version of this report finds a small but significant number of respondents researching the deployment of desktop Linux. Apple is also a renewed threat to Microsoft’s hold on the desktop. Furthermore, thin clients, desktop blades, hosted applications, and Google Desktop-like solutions also hold the potential to alter the desktop environment in the future. And some organizations may choose to await release of Windows 7, now slated for 2010, skipping over Vista entirely.

For businesses, though, the bottom line is not the total cost of the system or the appeal of the user interface, but the total cost of support, compatibility with the organization’s existing inventory of PCs, and availability of applications that drive business productivity. While Vista may be still a few years away for many organizations, Microsoft remains farther along in the adoption cycle than any of the potential alternatives. Microsoft claims corporate adoption is on a faster track than Windows XP was–a claim that may be somewhat muddied by its upgrade-sales options whereby organizations can purchase Vista but install XP. Nevertheless, IT managers should at least be ensuring that their investments today will be compatible with Vista tomorrow.

This Research Byte is a brief overview of our report on this subject, Microsoft Vista Migration Still Slow in 2008. The full report is available at no charge for Computer Economics clients, or it may be purchased by non-clients directly from our website at (click for pricing).