Hasta la Vista, Win XP?

Asian businesses are unlikely to bid farewell to their current Windows versions when Vista launches, as they need time to test their applications on the new Windows platform.

Five years after it unveiled Windows XP, Microsoft is finally ready--just about--to release its newest version of the operating system. But will businesses in Asia be just as ready to upgrade when Vista, along with Microsoft's upcoming suite of enterprise releases, make its debut?

Not quite, yet, according to Michael A. Silver, research vice president at Gartner. The analyst believes that most companies will not deploy either Vista or Office 2007 before 2008.

Silver said: "Volume adoption of Exchange 2007 will begin in earnest in 2008, with 40 percent of Exchange base in the Asia-Pacific region moving to Exchange 2007 by year-end 2010."

Generally, he added, Windows adoption by small businesses has a direct relation to PC sales, where they upgrade to the latest OS only when they acquire new PCs that come pre-installed with the platform.

And while the launch delay announced in March would mean a holdup of about one to two months to the general public, Silver noted that the slip would have little impact on enterprises, governments and the education sector.

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"Larger organizations usually spend 12 to 18 months testing a new release of Windows and waiting for their software vendors to support the OS with the latest releases of their applications before they can begin broad deployment," he said.

"For consumers, retailers, and everyone else in that chain, the effects are more significant," Silver said. "Not having Windows Vista preloaded [in new PCs] for the holidays [would be] a big miss for Microsoft."

Upgrade only on new PCs
Jason Cheng, CEO of Glee Electronics, said: "Vista, having more features and power, would require a more powerful set of hardware [components] for users to make the most out of the new benefits and features.

"In that sense, we do see more people upgrading to Vista when they get new hardware [equipment] rather than choosing to upgrade the OS on existing hardware," he said. A Philippines-based Microsoft OEM partner, Glee Electronics develops its own brand of PCs and notebooks for business and home users.

Cheng said the upcoming launch has the potential to bring higher hardware sales for Microsoft OEM partners such as Glee Electronics, which is projecting to ship between 20,000 and 25,000 computers in fiscal year 2007, ending June. "The systems we're launching this quarter and the next [quarter], will be Vista capable," he added.

Singapore's Raffles Medical Group is choosing to wait it out. The healthcare services provider is not planning any mass upgrade to the new Windows platform, said its CIO Colin Quek, who added that he had dabbled with the public beta release of Vista.

Raffles Media Group runs Windows on its desktops and servers, while Office 2003 is restricted to employees in the management and business development teams. "The rest use OpenOffice," Quek said, adding that his team supports about 600 PCs across the organization.

"I am not planning any mass upgrade [to Microsoft's upcoming releases]," he said. "I do not see us making any upgrades to Vista on existing machines... We will transition to Vista as we replace older machines with new ones running Vista, but no mass migration."

The healthcare services provider is also unlikely to carry out any mass upgrade to Office 2007, as it is "standardizing around OpenOffice".

According to Gartner's Silver, Windows migration decisions should be based on returns on investment (ROI) and "timing of new PCs", where companies that see high value in Vista should consider moving to new machines quickly.

"For most, however, the value may not be sufficient and the cost may be too high", he said. Companies that do decide to migrate should do so after their applications are tested, and by bringing in new PCs rather than upgrading existing machines, Silver advised.

"Most organizations we've spoken with that are planning to move relatively early, are planning to do so to take advantage of new collaboration and workflow, and management features in SharePoint 2007," the Gartner analyst said.

In fact, Microsoft is betting on these new components--alongside improved security and search capabilities--to draw in the buying crowd.

Mike Sievert, the software vendor's corporate vice president for Windows Client, said: "Vista has been designed to address what we see are major issues that our customers are facing.

"First, [it will] provide the tools to help people in the company to be most productive--particularly around finding and sharing information. Second, to help them protect and secure their sensitive confidential data. Third, to reduce the total cost of ownership for them to deploy and manage PCs," Sievert said in a phone interview with ZDNet Asia.

In a nutshell, Windows Vista is wrapped around three key focus areas: search, security and simplicity. For example, a search box has been integrated into virtually every folder that is opened within Vista and Office 2007, both of which use the same search indexer.

When asked whether the changes Microsoft is making to Vista in response to antitrust concerns, would impact the OS release in the Asia-Pacific region, Sievert would only say that the planned global launch date will be the same for this region.

He added that the changes to Vista are unlikely to affect Microsoft's ISV (independent software vendor) and OEM (original equipment manufacturer) partners. According to Microsoft, 300 software titles are already designed to work with Vista and Office 2007, and another 2,700 applications are scheduled to be ready by January 2007.

Malaysian ISV MyBiz Solutions, for example, has been involved in Microsoft's TouchDown initiative since early this year. According to Cheong Yuk Wai, Malaysia-based executive director at MyBiz, over 60 percent of its products are currently Vista-ready after the company spent the last six to eight months "re-platforming and porting" its applications--all of which run only in a Windows environment. By the end of the year, all of the ISV's applications will be Vista-enabled, he added.

According to Cheong, ISVs such as MyBiz can now push their applications to the end-user because their tools can now be integrated into the Office 2007. For instance, users would previously have to launch MyBiz's procurement management tool separately in order to submit an invoice form. With Vista, they will be able to access the procurement application while working off Microsoft Word.

"You need not log into the procurement application or the Internet to check on the status [of a product]," Cheong explained. "For an ISV, that's exciting because my application can now be integrated into Office, and I can push my tool to the end-user...so the [procurement manager'] secretary will be able to pull the information out into his desktop. With this, more end-users will be aware of my technology."

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