Gavriella Schuster, a senior director in the Windows product management group, urged businesses to move to the operating system now, even if they plan to move to Windows 7 when it ships, as is widely rumoured, later this year.
"If you're running Windows 2000, you should definitely move to Vista today," Schuster said. Those using the more than 7-year-old XP, which she described as being on "life support" due to Microsoft's plan to cut mainstream support in two months, should consider "how much money am I spending keeping XP alive, versus moving on". Microsoft also debuted a new blog called Windows for your Business to market Vista to its corporate customers.
She urged companies to check when their vendors plan to pull support for their applications on Windows XP and to start testing the Windows 7 beta today.
Windows 7's arrival by this year's holiday season could boost sales of PCs to consumers. But an earlier arrival, combined with the economic downturn, could hurt Vista's remaining chances with Microsoft's most profitable customer segment, businesses and large organisations.
Vista has been available to corporations for 27 months. Larger enterprises may take that long to test, prepare and deploy a major operating system upgrade like Vista due to the extensive application compatibility testing and employee retraining that is required.
Many corporate Windows users already have the rights to upgrade to Vista at anytime because of the multi-year Enterprise licenses and Software Assurance upgrade rights they buy. Many are resisting the move, though.
The government of Fulton County, Georgia, for example, is a Microsoft enterprise customer and tested the beta of Windows Vista three years ago as part of Microsoft's Technology Adoption Program (TAP). The county's IT officials came away so impressed that they initially planned to roll out Vista in all 6,000 of its PCs by the end of 2007, or a year after its release.
Fast-forward to early 2009, and Vista is running on only a small slice of Fulton's computers. The county has put off PC upgrades due to budget cuts resulting from lowered property taxes due to the real estate downturn in Atlanta and surrounding suburbs. That has left many employees using PCs that are 5 or 6 years old and running XP.
"We're stuck, and it's no fault of Vista," said Jay Terrell, deputy director of IT for the county government. "We're going to wait for Windows 7, though it's not because we [want to] wait."
Papa Gino's also plans to skip Vista for its 160 corporate employees, according to Paul Valle, CIO for the restaurant chain.
"We'll probably start testing Windows 7 when Service Pack 1 arrives and get serious [about upgrading] when SP2 comes," Valle said, taking a conservative approach to the deployment.
Smaller customers like Papa Gino's are arguably a bigger problem for Microsoft. Many of them buy the cheaper Select or Select Plus licenses expressly to avoid Software Assurance and don't want to be locked into Windows upgrades they might not ever install.
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