Is Vista New Coke?

Windows Vista is still struggling to find a place in dev shops and the enterprise, and its biggest enemy may be Windows XP.

Among surveys that Windows Vista is not gaining traction in enterprises and their respective development teams, Microsoft is stepping up its effort to market its latest desktop OS. But the move comes amid the latest reports to question Vista's long-term viability.

Forrester Research Inc. last month said enterprise adoption of Vista is in the mere single-digit range. The report compared Vista to New Coke, the famed attempt by The Coca-Cola Co. to change its famous namesake beverage in the 1980s, only to see sales plummet.

Windows Strong Overall
The latest report is notably meaningful considering its scope. The Cambridge, Mass.-based research firm interviewed 50,000 users among 2,300 large enterprises throughout the first half of 2008. It found Vista adoption in the enterprise to be 8.8 percent in June, up from 6.2 percent at the beginning of the year.

OS Adoption:  Click image for a larger view.By no means is Windows out of the picture, especially with wide use of Microsoft's legacy Windows XP operating system in the enterprise. The report recommends that vendors "develop exclusively for Windows XP and Vista," which account for the vast majority of operating systems used.

In addition, Thomas Mendel, author of the report, does not anticipate the Apple Mac will gain traction, except for specific enterprise markets that utilize Mac computers. Linux desktop use in the enterprise was negligible, at less than 1 percent, according to the report.

Vista on Track
For its part, Microsoft estimates that it has sold 180 million Vista licenses, as reported during its 2008 Financial Analyst Meeting, held on July 24. That 180 million figure is "very balanced across both consumer and enterprise," according to Bill Veghte, senior vice president of Microsoft's Online Services & Windows Business Group, who spoke at the conference, which was held in Redmond.

Veghte added that the adoption of Vista accelerated in the enterprise after Service Pack (SP) 1 was released. Microsoft released to manufacturing Vista SP1 in February of this year.

"You saw those enterprises accelerating that deployment," said Veghte to the financial analyst crowd, referring to Vista SP1. "And as one of you wrote recently, we're seeing that track very consistently with the deployment cycle we saw in enterprises around XP."

Forrester's Mendel had a different view. "Eighteen months after the release of Windows Vista, enterprise adoption is still in the single digits, and the majority of that seems to have come from upgrades of legacy Windows versions, not XP," he wrote in his report.

The report added that Vista adoption in the enterprise "appears to be falling short of planned deployment," based on the group's previous research.

In any case, many developers seem to have caught up with making their applications compatible with Vista since its initial release. Veghte said at the Financial Analyst Meeting that more than 250 commercial applications are now compatible with Vista.

Forrester's enterprise desktop Windows OS adoption numbers appear to track well with data collected by KACE Networks Inc., a maker of a systems-management appliance that lets users share OS use information. An informal KACE poll found that 85 percent of its enterprise respondents used Windows XP.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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