RealTime IT News

2007: The Vista From Here

Looking Back

When Microsoft shipped Windows Vista this time last year – November 30, 2006 for enterprise customers and January 29, 2007 for consumers – the company's minions had no idea what a long bumpy year it would be.

To start with, Vista arrived too late for the crucial 2006 Christmas selling season. In an effort to avoid a sales slump during the hottest shopping period of the year, Microsoft cooked up a logo program for new PCs to indicate the level of compatibility with Vista. The idea was that users could buy a new PC with Windows XP pre-installed and later upgrade to Vista, assured it would run on the new hardware.

Unfortunately, the logo program defined minimum hardware criteria for running two very different editions of Vista – one labeled "Vista Capable" and the other "Vista Premium Ready."

PCs labeled "Vista Capable" could only run the lowest-cost edition – Home Basic, which lacks Vista's signature Aero Glass interface. That ultimately led to a consumer lawsuit that promises to dog the company into 2008.

Were consumers duped into mistakenly buying PCs that could not run the higher-end editions of Vista? The judge is currently considering whether or not to grant the plaintiffs class action status, but a trial is not due until late October 2008.

More Vista Hassles

Vista's Troubles didn't stop there

Early user complaints included a shortage of device drivers for third-party hardware as well as slow performance copying files. Things have been slowly improving.

Since the launch, Microsoft has released a slew of bug patches and compatibility updates, in addition to a handful of security fixes. Additionally, over time, third-parties have expanded driver support for Vista.

However, sales of Vista did not ramp up as quickly as some analysts had initially expected, leading to dire predictions that the system could bomb – despite consistent claims by Microsoft officials that sales have been strong.

For example, the company announced in late March that, in the first month of consumer sales, it had sold more than double the number of units of Vista (20 million) as compared with the number of Windows XP units shipped (17 million) in that system's first two months on the market.

In addition, Microsoft officials stated that strong Vista sales helped drive fiscal 2007 revenues to $51 billion – a new record. Not too much of a surprise then that, when it announced results for the September quarter of fiscal 2008 in late October, the company reported its best fiscal first quarter since 1999.

As of the end of September, Microsoft officials said the company had sold 88 million copies of Vista at retail, and, via enterprise contracts, they have also sold some 42 million "options" to corporate customers to deploy the system.

All that said, recent surveys show that serious corporate uptake of Vista is still pending, and appears to hinge upon release of Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) – which is pending for the first calendar quarter of 2008. For instance, a Forrester Research report released in mid-November found that nearly half of corporate customers have plans to deploy Vista, but that only a small percentage – three percent -- have deployed it so far. A significant number – 32 percent – plan to have the move well underway by the end of 2008, however.

For those enterprise IT shops thinking of skipping Vista altogether and instead waiting for the next major release of Windows – currently codenamed Windows 7 – don't forget that it's not due until 2009 or later. Additionally, who could forget that Vista itself arrived two years late?

In early December, Microsoft released the second "release candidate," or RC, of SP1, and broadened testing to all comers – prompting analysts to predict an on time delivery. At nearly the same time, the company also commercially released SP1 for Office 2007.