These days, I often read that Vista skeptics are gaining the upper hand. For example this PC World article cites a Patchlink survey according to which 87 percent of businesses would stay with their existing operating system. And Chris Pirillo even believes that “Windows Vista loses users” to the arch-enemy Mac OS.
I agree that for bloggers a Mac is just fine since you only need a web browser. However, if you work with other software than mainstream apps, Windows is most often the only option. The Patchlink survey shows that Windows XP is doing a good job for most companies since all the software they need is running perfectly fine on it. So who needs Vista, then?
Microsoft obviously has a marketing problem. Their “wow campaign” was a complete failure because Vista simply has no obvious wow features and their customers are realizing that now. However, I think there are good reasons to upgrade to Vista even though it doesn’t offer any must-have features. Basically, there are two different kinds of arguments. One concerns user-related features and the other one comes from IT management.
I have been working with Vista on my own PCs since the final was out. In the beginning, I also was somewhat disappointed. The user interface looked different, but I couldn’t see anything that would improve my productivity. After several months I completely changed my mind. I can’t imagine going back to XP anymore. The strange thing is that I can’t tell you a concrete reason. I just realize that every time I logon to an XP machine, for example for testing purposes, I realize that something is missing. Sometimes it is the start search box, or the new Windows Explorer with its shortcut section, and sometimes I even miss Aero.
The point is that Vista has countless tiny improvements and this is really a hard one for every marketing professional. How can you list all 2750 new Vista features in an ad? And how can you convince IT journalists to write positive Vista reviews? A heading such as “Windows Explorer now has a shortcut section” does not really attract readers.
The other argument is often neglected in the discussion about Vista. From a system administrator’s point of view there is at least one wow feature:
Vista’s new imaging technology. I’ve been writing about it before, so I won’t go into it again. This feature certainly simplifies OS deployment tremendously. I think many IT managers are not yet aware of this. Many companies still rely on unattended installations. Since they don’t have experience with cloning yet, they can’t imagine what advantages this new technology brings for OS deployment.
In my view, this feature is reason enough to move to Vista as soon as possible. You might say that this becomes only relevant when you have to buy new PCs. The force of this argument depends on the size of your organization. Bigger organizations permanently install new workstations. However, they have well-coordinated deployment strategies already. So they just keep on doing what they always did and continue installing Windows XP.
It will certainly make efforts before a big organization can change its deployment strategy and benefit from Vista new capabilities. This also applies to other fields. Software and hardware compatibility issues are another reason why many IT managers shy away from a Vista upgrade. The necessary preparations before a major Vista rollout are certainly enormous. And this explains the results of surveys like the one from Patchlink. I think that many simply underestimated the huge amount of time and energy required to upgrade to a new OS.
Improved security, countless tiny user interface enhancements, and the arguments of tech savvy admins are often not enough reason to convince CIOs to invest in those sumptuous preparations. However, I have no doubt that most companies will finally make this step as soon as they plan a major rollout of new PCs. Thus, we will only see a gradual increase of Vista installations in the next months. And by the way, this is nothing unusual. This is typical for new products from Redmond. It always takes some time until Microsoft’s customers are finally convinced.
I usually belong to those who are quite easily persuaded to use new technology. And even for me, it took several months until I fully embraced Vista. One thing is for sure, though. Those who hope that it is now the time for Apple or even Linux to step into the breach, underestimate Microsoft’s staying power. Attendees of a blogger conference might enjoy proudly showing off their stylish, white MacBooks. However, to read into this that “Windows Vista loses users” is a bit far-fetched.