While Microsoft is still over a month away from its expected business launch of Windows Vista, company officials are starting now to make the case for why business customers should upgrade to the next version of Windows.
Some analysts are advising business users to delay deploying Vista for years. Gartner Group analysts, for instance, are advising enterprise customers not to consider large-scale Vista deployments until 2008, at the earliest.
But Microsoft execs say that they believe that business customers will be able to take advantage of new Microsoft tools and technologies that will make both Vista upgrades and brand-new installations well worth their while.
And they are predicting on the very day that Microsoft launches Vista for businesses – which Microsoft is still saying will happen some time in November 2006 – business customers who’ve been testing the operating system will launch 60,000 worldwide seats of Vista. That figure is ten times the number of seats usually deployed by Windows users at launch, said Brad Goldberg, general manager of Microsoft’s Windows Client Business Group.
This week, Goldberg and other members of Microsoft’s Vista brass participated in a cross-country press and analyst tour, explaining the business case for Vista. They showed off total-cost-of-ownership (TCO) calculations for potential Vista customers, emphasizing the labor, management and support costs that they expect the new operating system to bring.
Officials said that Microsoft is prepping a panoply of new tools – everything from the new version of Microsoft’s Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT), to WAIK (the Windows Automated Installation Kit, which is a version of the Windows OEM Preinstallation Kit that is tailored for corporations), that will allow business users to pick and choose which Vista components to install on users’ PCs) – to make Vista installations less risky.
Via its own research, Microsoft found that application compatibility problems were the biggest reason that some business users opted to delay deploying Windows XP Service Pack (SP) 2 two years ago. In order to head off that situation, Microsoft has committed to making its ACT tool and compatibility data publicly available, simultaneous with the Vista launch. Microsoft and its partners have been testing more than 1,900 applications for Vista compatibility. For now, however, the results of those tests remain private, officials admitted, given that ACT and Vista itself are both still in beta.
(Luckily, some individuals and groups are taking matters into their own hands and making Vista app-compatibility data public.)
How does Microsoft know all this? The Vista team has been working closely with business users designated as Technology Adoption Program (TAP) partners. With Vista, Microsoft has been working with 500 TAPs worldwide, plus 50 additional super-TAPs (my term), who are working hand-in-hand with Microsoft engineers in designing the product.
Microsoft anticipates that new laptops will be the initial platform on which Vista is deployed, given the security, data-protection and other new business features that will cost-justify their purchase, Goldberg said. But Microsoft also is anticipating enterprise customers will perform a lot more Vista upgrades on existing machines, as well, than they’ve traditionally done with previous versions of Windows.
“Today, it’s wipe and load, instead of upgrade,” Goldberg said. “But we expect more upgrades with Vista.”
So are business users going to buy Microsoft’s TCO logic? I’ve talked to some true believers, and some die-hard skeptics. I’ll let them speak their pieces in an upcoming post.