Microsoft Hopes for Smoother Vista Sailing

Analysis: SEATTLE — In launching its delayed but ambitious new operating system,
Vista, and Office 2007, Microsoft faces the most daunting competitor in its
history – itself.

Windows XP and Office 2003 are well-entrenched and the “known quantity”
corporate America, and IT departments specifically, feel safer dealing with the known rather than unknown of recently-released software. In fact, for the many companies
that still use the earlier versions of Windows NT and Office, a
transition to Vista is not even on their radar.

At the WinHEC conference here, Microsoft made its best case for faster
Vista adoption, unveiling new features, product strategies and customer endorsements.

“One of the things we’re doing this time is we’ve released more builds
along the way and we’ve had 15,000 beta testers,” Michael Burk, a Microsoft
Vista spokesman, told Further, Microsoft’s said
this week’s Beta 2 release of “Longhorn” Vista Server will be available to
more than 500,000 subscribers to developer networks and other
distributions to the IT community.

“That’s a little different than what we did with XP,” said Burk. “And it
gives those people a head start on application compatibility, lab tests and
figuring out the best deployment strategy on multiple machines.”

Bottom line, Microsoft is betting that despite the delay in finally
getting Vista commercially ready, the finished product will be more stable
and feature packed than its predecessors. The stakes are high for Microsoft
and also its many partners.

On the consumer side, “If there isn’t the clear, rapid transition
Microsoft expects, the peripheral makers rule because they’ll sell the
faster hard drives and other upgrades people will buy rather than new
systems,” Richard Doherty, director of Envisioneering, told

“But if you’re a system maker, a slow transition is a death knell,
particularly if there are any more delays. ‘Vista Ready’ is a very fuzzy
marketing message to use to sell PCs when most people aren’t aware of the
potential benefits.”

The Vista launch will be very different than previous Microsoft OS
releases. Currently slated for November for corporate delivery and January
for consumers, both Vista and Office 2007 will, in a first for the world’s
largest software company, ship about the same time.

Also, Microsoft is tailoring different versions of Vista for different
buyers. It’s also the first Windows OS to scale to
the hardware.

The “Vista Capable” version has relatively low hardware requirements.
Users will have the option to upgrade to “Vista Premium” as they upgrade
their hardware, primarily the graphics card and memory. There’s even going
to be a Vista “Ultimate” version that combines all the all the consumer and
corporate features.

For its corporate sales, Microsoft can only hope it gets more customers
like Chevron.

Alan Nunns, general manager of information technology and strategy for
Chevron, joined Bill Gates on the WinHec stage to explain why the oil and
gas giant plans to migrate to Vista.

Chevron was among the first corporations to standardize its desktop and
servers on Windows NT back in 1998. The next big rollout was to Windows XP
and now Nunns said Chevron plans a third wave of widespread adoption to
Vista when it’s released.

With 60,000 employees worldwide, Nunns said “information management is a
real challenge.”

XP offered Chevron improved security and a globalization of work
processes. With Vista, Office 2007 and Microsoft’s forthcoming SharePoint
Nunns said he’s looking forward to improvements in information
management and collaboration.

“We have 60,000 employees who can collaborate now using XP, but with
SharePoint, we’re looking at having a standard information management

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