During research for my series on Vista vs. Windows XP, I stumbled across an article at ChanelWeb that claimed that according to Gartner, the adoption of Vista by businesses is in line with that of XP at a comparable juncture after its release. As I will also publish an article at Computerwoche on this topic, I wanted to be sure if this surprising data really is correct. So I contacted Gartner and they were kind enough to mail me their latest numbers. This data does not exactly match with that of the ChannelWeb article, but it allows us to draw the same conclusion: the adoption rate of Windows Vista is indeed comparable to that of Windows XP after its release.

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Here are the numbers I received from Gartner:
PC Installed Base by Operating System, Worldwide

Operating System20032008
Windows XP Home and Follow-Ons12%23%
Windows XP Professional10%40%
Windows Vista Home0%16%
Windows Vista Business0%13%

Windows XP was released on October 25, 2001. The market share of Windows XP Professional was 10% after approximately two years. Windows Vista was available to business customers on November 8, 2006 and was available to the public on January 30, 2007. If Gartner's prediction is correct, then Windows Vista Business will be installed on 13% of all PCs worldwide at the end of 2008. This means that the adoption rate of Vista will be a little faster than that for XP following its release. The same applies to the consumer versions.

According to the data in my poll, the situation looks a little better for Vista because 17% of my readers have already started moving to Vista and 12% plan to do so in 2008. Note that in my poll, I didn't ask about the number of PCs running Vista. Starting with a deployment does not imply that all PCs in an organization run Vista.

Anyway, these numbers indicate that all the gossip about Vista's failure is just nonsense. If Vista is a failure, then XP is one as well, because it was not adopted any faster. I am quite fascinated by how this gossip spreads on the Internet. Take this new InfoWeek article as an example. The author, Paul McDougall, refers to a Symantec executive who said that

…only a small percentage of the security software company's large enterprise customers have upgraded their corporate PCs to Vista.

So, only a "small percentage" have upgraded to Vista? Could I have some concrete numbers, please? A "small percentage" probably refers only to the personal assessment of this Symantec executive. Maybe he expected or hoped that more of Symantec's customers would have adopted Vista already. And that's why it is only "small." It is also a matter of fact that large enterprises adopt new operating systems at a much slower pace than small and mid-sized organizations do. Obviously, this statement contains absolutely no valuable information about Vista's pace of adoption.

Later in the article, the author cites Windows license sales for Microsoft's fiscal third quarter to confirm his point. However, everyone knows that license sales, especially for just one quarter, can't tell you anything about Vista's adoption. You might as well believe Microsoft who says that 140 million Windows licenses sold "proves" that Vista is a great success. The only thing that really counts is the number of Vista machines out there. And if you want to know if Vista is a success or a failure, you have to compare its adoption rate to other operating systems such as Windows XP.

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Now look at how many news sites and blogs copied this story and what they make of this "data." Again, everyone is convinced that Vista must be a really big failure. I must admit, I am quite shocked about all of this. Not because of Vista, but of how our "free media" work. In contrast to the situation in totalitarian countries, in the "free world," the media aren't told what to write by the government. Instead, readers are in control - because the only thing that really counts is the number of clicks. It seems to me that more and more journalists and bloggers tend to write what everyone likes to hear, regardless of whether it is true or not.

  1. Avatar
    Jarred Fehr 16 years ago

    I evaluated Vista and deployed it at my company based on its technical merits. I didn’t really use the opinion of the media or people I know during my evaluation. Like you said, one the band wagon comes to town most people like to jump on it. To me it is their loss.

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    Bruce Schwartz 16 years ago

    I know what is wrong with our media. Nowadays, they’re mostly already familiar with XP, and don’t like something “new”.

    Show Office 2007 to someone who uses Office 2003 daily, and he will hate it. Show it to someone who never used Office, and he will love it, learn it faster. Show a Mac to someone who know Windows inside-out, and they won’t “get it”.

  3. Avatar
    Dale Harper 16 years ago

    The issue you raise is the role of the media as reporters and advisors/influencers.

    Like you I’m all for more reporting and a fair bit less uninformed opinion! When you look at the breathtaking logistics of any large OS deployment, you soon discover the stats look pretty much as you state, it simply takes time.

    Has everyone forgotten how long it took for winxp to eventually supplant win2k, even win98 and winnt4.0?

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    Michael Tegler 16 years ago

    I’ve certainly had my fair share of problems with Vista, but these numbers don’t surprise me a bit. I lived through the same issues with XP as I’m doing now with Vista.

    I guess my only complaint is that I and everyone expected a lot more from Vista, not the same old growing pains.

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    Herbert 16 years ago

    Even though I’m a Vista advocate and have been beta-testing and a relatively early adopter of Windows Vista, I’m still surprised that Vista’s adoption rate is faster than XP’s.

    I imagine that XP’s adoption rate is actually overlooked – in retrospect, I adopted XP probably four years after it came out, so I don’t know how I could’ve missed that.

    I’m just disappointed that the general public’s overall impression of Windows Vista is so shabby – I’ve worked on Vista for a year, and I haven’t experienced freezing, crashing, or any BSOD’s. And the first service pack is out already.

    I’m not going to lie – I wrote a post or two involving Vista’s “mediocre” adoption rate – but after reading this article, I’ll be sure to check my facts twice before informing my readers.


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    db 16 years ago

    So no one is using Vista Ultimate?

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    Chuck 16 years ago

    In the article it states

    …You might as well believe Microsoft who says that 140 million Windows licenses sold “proves” that Vista is a great success. The only thing that really counts is the number of Vista machines out there…

    This is not true how many of these machines are really running Vista and how many have been “downgraded” to XP.

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    joe 16 years ago

    I think they are just trying to go with a comparison of apples to apples here. Being that Vista home ~= xp home and Vista Business ~= XP Pro.

  9. Avatar

    Jarred, I’d say you belong to a minority. Obviously there are quite a few who have been influenced by the bad press. I have read 40% never had any experience with Vista, but still have an opinion about it. Check out this article for more.

    Joe, I absolutely agree that Vista’s new imaging capabilities belong to the most important enhancements. Actually, it is the main reason for me to move to Vista in my organization. We deploy Windows via imaging since Windows NT 4 and so I really know what it means to be able to use just one image for all computers in your network. However, this new imaging technology has nothing to do with syprep. If you install Vista from the original DVD, you don’t have to use syprep, but you still just install a WIM image.

    Bruce, I think the difference is that there are no Office 2007 bashing articles. Many people believe that the only real new thing about Vista is its compatibility problem.

    Dale, I agree. It is seems as if many expected that all companies would just move to Vista immediately after its release. Maybe this is due to the fact that it took Microsoft so long to get it ready.

    Michael, I am curious. What exactly did you expect from Vista?

    Herbert, then my post was good for something at least. But I doubt that such facts will stop the rumors about Vista’s failures. People enjoy it a lot if a big one fails and that’s why we will read such articles until the next Microsoft’s earnings record.

    Db, I think Vista Ultimate and Enterprise don’t play an important role. Most consumer PCs run Vista Home and companies usually deploy Vista Business and sometimes Vista Enterprise laptops because of Bitlocker.

    Chuck, with “number Vista machines out there” I mean computers that really run Vista and not downgraded XP installations.

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