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How Fast Will They Flock to Vista?

If Microsoft is laying odds on how fast its new Vista operating system will be adopted, it may want to look back at its XP experience, according to a new study.

Forrester Research analyst Ted Schadler is predicting that Windows Vista adoption patterns will look similar to the uptake on Windows XP.

His report, "A Forecast of Windows Vista Consumer Adoption," said about 12 million households will purchase Vista in 2007, a figure he expects to grow to 73 million by 2011.

Schadler said it will likely take Vista the same time as XP to reach wide usage. It took four years for XP to be used by the current 76 percent of homes, according to the report.

Joe Wilcox of JupiterKagan Research is slightly less optimistic. "I would be stunned if Vista sales are as strong as XP," he told internetnews.com.

Microsoft is hoping consumers will buy computers deemed "Windows Vista Capable" during the holiday season, before Vista is in wide release, and then upgrade to Vista later. But that doesn't account for more than a third of PCs in use, that were purchased in 2002, or earlier. On that count, Microsoft is once again competing with older versions of its Windows product.

"It would take a truly disruptive benefit for a new version of Windows to change this consumer behavior," Schadler wrote.

Despite a coupon program providing discounts of Vista for consumers that buy PCs now, the new operating system will be hobbled by its late introduction, expected in Jan. 30 of 2007.

The coupons "are one step from coal in a stocking," Wilcox said.

When it launched in October of 2001, XP had big sales over the holidays, Wilcox noted. Although business customers may get Vista Nov. 30, Wilcox said, "who wants to test a new OS over the holidays?"

Data from Merrill Lynch supports their view. A survey of CIOs by the financial firm found that only 14 percent planned to upgrade to Vista in 2007. The survey also said 15 percent of companies reported they would update to Office 2007 next year, also.

While adoption of Vista may not be as quick as Microsoft believes, Schadler said there are some ways the software giant can spur purchase of the flagship operating system.

Microsoft should go beyond coupons and offer free upgrades to Vista for consumers that purchase Windows XP in December, he wrote in his report. "Why should a consumer suffer just because the industry missed a shipping deadline?"