Whatever Dell's Kevin Kettler is on (re: Vista), please pass some to me

Summary:Either our sister site's Sylvia Carr (over at Silicon.com) heard it wrong, or Dell CTO Kevin Kettler has had a momentary lapse of reason.

Either our sister site's Sylvia Carr (over at Silicon.com) heard it wrong, or Dell CTO Kevin Kettler has had a momentary lapse of reason.  Wrote Carr:

Businesses will upgrade to Microsoft's Vista in droves as consumers bring their love of the next-generation operating system from home to work, a Dell executive says.

The company's chief technology officer, Kevin Kettler, on Monday said he's "bullish" about Vista uptake in among enterprise customers. "This will be an important transition for Microsoft as well as for Dell," he told CNET News.com sister site Silicon.com.

Vista will offer major improvements on Windows that both businesses and consumers will want to take advantage of, which is why Dell is preparing for a "more aggressive than usual" uptick in hardware sales, as people upgrade, another Dell executive said.

Apparently, these executives have forgotten how the supposedly revolutionary Windows XP took about four years before more than 50 percent of global Windows users worldwide were on it. Not to mention how businesses are loathe to make the move until after the first service pack -- the one that corrects the first highly publicized wave of nightmares -- is released. Also bear in mind that  back in Fall 2001 when XP hit the mainstream, the blogosphere that now gives every Tom, Dick and systems administrator a voice was practically non-existent. The rules and the grapevine are different now. Carr's story continues:

One Vista feature that will win over enterprises is the ability to run different versions of the operating system depending on the hardware, Kettler said. For instance, a company could install a basic, less resource-intensive version to older hardware and a high-performance version with to newer hardware.

This of course assumes that the new (but scaled back version of Vista) solves a problem that the existing installations of XP (or even Windows 2000 in some cases) doesn't. Many of the corporate desktop administrators I've spoken to over the years have their "clients" systems so dialed-in and locked down that their only headache has been all the security updates (and so far, I know of know one outside of Microsoft that's confident that Vista will put an end to that).

I've got another more comprehensive blog post coming on the issue of what it will take for businesses to move to Vista (based on my interview of a Microsoft's Windows Client Business Group general manager Brad Goldberg), but my overall sense is that Kettler is off the mark on this. Although there's probably no way to count, my bet is that most of XP's penetration to date has been through the purchases of new systems that had XP pre-installed on them. That was, in fact, how I ended up with a production version of XP here at CNET Networks. Had my Windows 2000 system not experienced the catastrophic, non-software related failures that it did, it probably would have been another two years before I ended up with XP. 

Today, the challenge to system manufacturers like Dell and Gateway is that the market is saturated with overpowered systems that for most knowledge workers and consumers, have enough idle time to power a grid that's 10 times the size of the one currently powering the SETI@Home project (that's a wild guess folks... not a fact... but I think it's a good guess). In other words, many buyers might not be in such a hurry to acquire a new system anytime soon. Perhaps working in favor of system manufacturers are the increasing number of users that rely on notebook computers for most of their computing. Notebooks don't last as long as their desktop counterparts, thereby requiring more frequent replacement. Even so, I'm not so sure that any replacements coming to corporate America in the next year (pre-Vista Service Pack 1) will get Vista on them.

So, when I read these predictions, I like to think back to the days before XP shipped (when similar anticipation reigned supreme), and after.  For example, almost one year after Windows XP originally shipped, Joe Wilcox (then of News.com) wrote:

At the same time, Windows 2000, the previous-generation OS from Microsoft, still reigns supreme among business customers, say PC makers. Market researcher Gartner estimates that computers with Windows 2000 will account for 41 percent of new PCs sold to businesses this year, compared with about 16 percent with Windows XP. In August, Microsoft issued Service Pack 3 for Windows 2000.

In mid-2000, ahead of XP's launch, Wilcox wrote:

Allchin said the company will spend hundreds of millions of dollars promoting Windows XP, and he predicted a big PC sales boost for the fourth quarter. "We're going to blow out the holiday season. It's going to be incredibly exciting," he said. "The holiday season is going to be great for the PC industry."

In fact, searching the Web for stories about XP's adoption (including adoption of the service packs) reveals tons of stories like that tell the story of hope when a new operating system ships, along with some recognition of the reality reflected in the BBC's PC Makers hope for XP boost (circa 2001) from, you guessed it, an executive at Dell:

Simon Calver at Dell UK, in charge of sales to home users and small businesses, says that if consumers are happy with their system there is no reason to upgrade. "There is no dramatic change with this software. But if people begin to use more digital pictures or want to process digital video, they may want to consider buying XP and get a new computer," he told BBC News Online. Windows XP packaging line, AP Steve Ballmer admits that companies have little reason to upgrade from Windows 2000 to Windows XP For businesses, it is not much different. "We don't want our customers to buy systems they don't need," says Mr. Calver, who explains that firms should consider XP if they want improved connectivity for their mobile workforce or plan to offer specialised services like advanced online customer support.

Not to rain on Vista's parade (it has tons of interesting features), but there are just certain market dynamics that will be in play once it ships. So, whatever happy juice Kettler is getting from Dell's company coolers, pass some along to me.

Topics: Windows

About

David Berlind was fomerly the executive editor of ZDNet. David holds a BBA in Computer Information Systems. Prior to becoming a tech journalist in 1991, David was an IT manager.

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