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Is Vista Still a Flop With IT?

To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of Windows Vista's demise have been exaggerated.

Somewhat, at any rate.

Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. recently released a report that indicated Vista still isn't ringing many bells with major IT shops.

"A year of overwhelmingly bad publicity, coupled with opportunities for continued XP 'downgrades' or potentially skipping over Vista for Windows 7, look to have meaningfully eroded support for Vista and are likely to impair the product's overall adoption," the Seattle Post-Intelligencer quoted the report as stating.

That was seconded last week when analysis firm Computer Economics weighed in with early results of its own recent poll.

"The preliminary results from our annual IT staffing, spending, and technology trends survey indicate that most organizations are still not including Vista in their plans for 2008. Many are not even planning, as yet, for an eventual migration," the firm said in a statement.

"Widespread adoption of Vista could still be a year or more away, which raises the possibility that Microsoft could begin to see its dominant share of the corporate desktop market erode with this desktop upgrade cycle," the report continued.

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) does not break out sales of Vista from sales of its other "supported" operating system -- Windows XP.

However, tech analyst firms disagree on whether Vista is already past the prime it never had or is just beginning to take off.

In fact, sales of Vista to consumers are going swimmingly, according to Microsoft.

CEO Steve Ballmer said in late May that retail sales of Vista have now passed the 150 million unit mark. Additionally, by now, the vast majority of new PCs sold at retail come with a copy of Vista pre-installed.

In addition, despite all the talk in the media of the new fad of users buying a PC with Vista and then downgrading (even at additional cost) to XP, reports of that occurring have been hard to verify, say several analysts.

"I haven't seen any reliable numbers on the numbers of people who are buying Vista and downgrading to XP," Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, told InternetNews.com.

That doesn't mean that some large corporate customers aren't downgrading, of course. King said, however, that the slower adoption rate is as much the result of a poor economy as anything else.

"In the middle of a severe economic slow down, you have businesses tightening their belts," he said. That is causing companies to put off buying new PCs, which is still the primary avenue for Vista to enter the enterprise – a long-established pattern for new versions of Windows.

Gaining corporate acceptance

Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, has been hearing the same kinds of anecdotal evidence that Vista may not be having the sort of corporate impact that a new version of Windows would typically create by this stage in its lifecycle. However, he notes that at least one typical behavior has started to kick in.

"[Corporations] are now accepting Vista coming in on new machines, even if they're not replacing older machines as quickly," Bajarin said. Typical of most Windows roll outs, many corporate IT staffs will take the new system off of new PCs coming into their shops and replace them with the earlier operating system – until a point where the new system has achieved enough momentum that they finally start leaving it in place.

That appears likely to continue ramping up as Microsoft discontinues availability for Windows XP through most outlets as of this week.

In addition, Microsoft shipped Vista SP1 to volume licensees in late February. At least until recently, the conventional wisdom has been that conservative IT shops wait for the first service pack of a new Microsoft operating system to ship before they begin to deploy it.