Vista Impact Debated

April 23, 2007
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With 90 percent of the personal computer market operating on the Microsoft platform, the recent release of the Windows Vista operating system will have an immense impact.

Whether that will be an entirely positive impact remains to be seen.

Microsoft sold 20 million consumer copies of Windows Vista in its first month on the market, doubling the pace of its last operating system launch, Windows XP, in 2001. Now in its 11th week on the market, the upgrade’s marketing and media blitz — and popular interest — have slowed.

According to a study by market research firm Harris Interactive, most Americans are at least aware of Vista, with 87 percent of respondents indicating they are familiar with the product. But the percentage of those aware of Vista who intend to upgrade has fallen 40 percent since its January launch to 12 percent of respondents.

In its second annual Michigan Technology Leadership Index Study, Grand Rapids-based information technology consulting firm C/D/H estimated that fewer than 10 percent of Michigan organizations will make the move to Vista during 2007, with most waiting until mid-2008 and beyond.

C/D/H partner Paul Hillman said that many of his firm’s larger clients — health care, banking and insurance institutions — are eyeing the new operating system for its upgraded security features.

“All of them have spent an inordinate amount of time over the last several years on patching and virus protection — just very inefficient activities, and they are looking forward to the day when the operating system is much more bulletproof,” he said. “But for most of us, we don’t really worry about the OS that much.”

Hillman said that other Microsoft launches this year will have a larger immediate impact than Vista, such as Office 2007 and the SharePoint and Exchange server upgrades. For most companies, the decision to upgrade operating systems will largely depend on the cost of security fixes. For the large majority of organizations, Hillman said, the upgrade to Vista will be part of the regular desktop refresh cycle.

He does predict, however, that some larger organizations will migrate to Vista later this year, likely in conjunction with an upgrade to Microsoft Office 2007.

Ryan Leestma, president of local IT consulting firm ISI (like C/D/H, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner) said there is much more benefit to Vista than just security.

“Security is a huge improvement, but the performance of the system as a whole has improved dramatically,” he said, citing improvements in system architecture, search functions, speed, reliability and visual appearance.

Criticisms for or against Vista are ultimately moot, as the computer industry is moving toward Vista either way. By January, computer manufacturers will cease shipping products carrying XP or earlier operating systems entirely, per Microsoft’s orders. Software development firms will follow suit. 

“This is going to ultimately start the refresh cycle,” Leestma said. “In a few months, you’re going to have people saying they’re ready to get on the Vista bandwagon. They’ll be looking at purchasing new hardware. They’re going to need consulting services and instruction in how to use the new features. They’re going to need help integrating all these new pieces of hardware and software into their existing businesses.”

For every dollar Microsoft makes on Windows Vista, the rest of the computer industry will collect $18 in revenue, according to IDC, a technology research firm. The ecosystem of Microsoft developers and vendors should sell an estimated $70 billion in products and services revolving around Windows Vista in the U.S. in 2007, the report concluded, generating 157,000 new U.S. jobs.

“This makes for a great deal of activity,” said Keith Brophy, president of NuSoft Solutions in Grand Rapids, the region’s largest software developer and also a Gold-Certified Microsoft Partner. “It’s the best kind of activity in our view. … This one really has some measurable business value that CIOs care about. We’ve been involved in some early deployments, and the feedback has been extremely affirming.”

Atomic Object LLC in Grand Rapids develops software for every operating system and platform on the market. President and founder Carl Erickson has a decidedly lukewarm opinion of Vista, especially compared to Apple Computer’s Mac OS X.

“The way I look at it, there is $18 of value subtracted for every dollar of Vista sold,” he said, referring to the IDC study. “In the sense that I buy Vista, and now I have to spend another $18 on nothing more than getting it to work.”

Plus, Erickson said, there is no guarantee that the new operating system won’t eventually reveal the same flaws as prior Microsoft releases.

“This might not be a watershed release, but it will have a trickle-down effect,” said Mark Lardieri, president of CQL Inc. in Grand Rapids, another Microsoft Gold Certified Partner. “It’s what is going to end up happening, and it is incumbent that we develop applications that can be served in a Vista-compatible environment.”    

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