Vista To Win in the Enterprise, The Ugly Way

Vista To Win in the Enterprise, The Ugly Way

Summary: I came away from this week's Microsoft Worldwide Partner (WPC) conference convinced, finally, that the future of Vista is assured in the enterprise. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't because of anything Microsoft said -- the combined mea culpa/back atcha delivered by Microsoft's Brad Brooks, the Corporate Vice President in charge of Vista's rehabilitation, isn't what swayed me.

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I came away from this week's Microsoft Worldwide Partner (WPC) conference convinced, finally, that the future of Vista is assured in the enterprise. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't because of anything Microsoft said -- the combined mea culpa/back atcha delivered by Microsoft's Brad Brooks, the Corporate Vice President in charge of Vista's rehabilitation, isn't what swayed me. Nor was the rush of end-users I know who are growing to love Vista despite its foibles and obvious problems -- mostly because there is no such rush of Vista lovers that I'm aware of, and I frankly don't expect any to show up any time soon. (See Ed Bott's prescription for fixing Vista's image problems here.)

The reason that I now am a believer in the inevitability of Vista -- or its successor, Windows 7 -- is all about the inevitability of a desktop "standard" that, with the demise of new XP sales last month, has become the defacto choice for the enterprise desktop. And, having heard some of Microsoft's partners wax eloquent again about the advantages of using XP to build "cool" new apps, I'm also convinced that the advanced display capabilities of Vista will make for some impressive, must-have enterprise applications in years to come.

While Linux penguins and Macintosh fanatics all think they have a better desktop environment than Vista -- and maybe they do -- neither OS is going to make major in-roads into the enterprise just because of a little problem with Vista's user acceptance. After all, what does user acceptance have to do with anything? Enterprise IT has never run a popularity contest, and if you doubt that just look at the unbelievably crappy user experience that has dominated enterprise software since the dawn of time. IT runs an increasingly cost-conscious effort aimed at trying hard not to pay too much attention to worrying about how much its users are actually loving their software. IT wants efficiency above all, and will always opt for expediency over technical "correctness", which means that Microsoft's incumbent position on the desktop -- combined with the significant cost-differential between a Mac and a Window PC -- isn't going to be usurped just because Vista sucks.

Or should I say sucked. There's some evidence that the new service pack has sucked a lot of the suckiness out of Vista, and it seems that Vista is a whole lot less sucky than when it first came out. Thank goodness for small favors.

But what's more important is that Vista won't suck forever, and Microsoft's desktop monopoly will endure. And PCs will continue to be cheaper than Macs. And ISVs will continue to write cool apps that need a Vista-like environment to really show their stuff. And so the march of Microsoft will continue, and Vista will one day dominate the enterprise the way that XP does today. If for no other reason than the fact that when corporate IT next upgrades its PCs, none of them will come with XP -- and if that ain't proof that monopolies lead a charmed, if unpleasing, existence, nothing is.

I can't say that this strategy is the best way to win the hearts and minds of the user community, or IT management, but why should Microsoft be any different? If you look at how enterprise software vendors have traditionally dealt with upgrades to their software products, the general tendency has been to put the vendor's interests well ahead of the user. Upgrades to enterprise software tend to be expensive, complicated, buggy to a degree that makes Vista look like a rock, and, by the way, force-fed on an often reluctant user base to boot.

Of course, this kind of to-heck-with-the-customer attitude could never fly when it comes to consumer products (except for the pass that Apple gets about non-removable batteries and no cut-and-paste function in even the new iPhone), and, as a consumer stuck with a Vista PC at home, I want to say categorically that I'm sorry I bought it. But enterprise IT is not a beauty contest, nor is it the place where bold moves and dramatic gestures are made. Which means that one day, like most everything else Microsoft does, they will get Vista right enough to rightly take over the largely great XP mantle. And IT, as it makes its next big waves of PC purchases, will be buying Vista machines by the millions, mostly because they won't have any other choice. Whereupon they may even discover a business case for having a high-end visual experience on their users' desktops, thanks to a new wave of emerging apps that require the resources of a Vista to be cool enough.

It's a helluva ugly way to win the latest battle of the desktop. But in the end there's going to be something in Vista's ascendancy for users, the IT department, and corporate productivity. And once that latter issue is settled, we'll all have forgotten how much we hated Vista when it first came out. To be sure, by then, there'll be some else we'll all love to hate, and the cycle will repeat itself once again. Plus ca change, as Steve Ballmer said in his WPC keynote, plus c'est la meme chose.

Topics: Windows, Hardware, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software

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  • re: Winning Ugly

    [i]Why should Microsoft be any different? If you look at how enterprise software vendors have traditionally dealt with upgrades to their software products, the general tendency has been to put the vendor?s interests well ahead of the user. Upgrades to enterprise software tend to be expensive, complicated, buggy to a degree that makes Vista look like a rock, and, by the way, force-fed on an often reluctant user base to boot.[/i]

    Very true, and this is partly why Vista is having it's own adoption problems.

    The version of our ERP system that we are on, does not have a Vista compatible client. It's 1 rev old (i.e. X.1, with the latest being X.2). Now the latest version does indeed have a Vista client. But of course, they're not going to write a Vista client for our version... no, we need to upgrade for that which is currently cost prohibitive. Therefore, I can't run Vista PC's here... not for a while anyway.
    Badgered
  • Tolerance is waning

    Because of corporate experience with UNIX and Linux, and the awareness of the difference in capabilities and performance, many corporations are becoming much less tolerant of Microsoft. Many companies have not renewed their service agreements, having been made to look foolish by the 'Software Assurance' scam. Most have Linux migration strategies that can be implemented within 30 to 90 days if necessary. Most have hired system administrators and PC administrators with UNIX and/or Linux administration experience, and most MCSEs are now starting to get Linux certifications to remain marketable.

    My source? Look around.
    User07734
    • Blah blah...

      'Many' this and 'many' that...

      How about you provide some hard numbers, cowboy?

      Because I'm going to bet they're very small indeed.
      Sleeper Service
    • Hmmm

      Not really sure about this, cause i have met "IT" types that only wanted to go for MCSE certifications and I know MCSE's that like Linux a lot too.

      The Monkeys-in-suits-flipping-switches types just don't want to do anything different aside from a MCSE certification. They are afraid of real OS's (UNIX/Linux/OpenVMS/zOS)
      TedKraan
  • Celebrating Impotence

    Wow, the author is a bold individual. Normally when
    someone is impotent, they don't advertise it. So "business
    just doesn't have a choice?". I wonder how business, that
    normally sees itself as empowered and autonomous, put
    itself in this position?

    It's possible business got some bad advice somewhere
    along the line. It may have sounded remarkably similar to
    this new advice. They may have been the same calls for
    forbearance, or the same commiseration session, or yet
    another appeal to inevitability. It's just practical right?

    Actually, no it isn't. It is the championing of a false
    economy of over a real and open one. It's the endorsement
    of monopoly over technical merit.

    This isn't due diligence. It doesn't set competing systems
    against one another in productivity, TCO, and stability
    studies. This is irrational, lazy populist horse manure. If
    this is outside the scope of this blog, it is similarly and
    conveniently outside the scope of many who have grown to
    rely on the Windows ecosystem for their livelihoods.

    Yes, Windows has the lions share, perhaps Vista will also.
    But history teaches us that large numbers of people doing
    entirely the wrong thing has been the rule and not the
    exception. So please bring something other than
    circumstantial sales figures with any reply.

    SMBs are the backbone of our nation's economy. Some of
    these businesses are switching platforms. They site some
    pretty rational reasons and they are not going back. What
    is up with that? Are you the least bit curious? These
    anecdotes represent the best and least biased study of the
    complete experience and these are being ignored by a
    battalion of PC repairmen with one hand covering their
    eyes, and the other covering their rears. To dismiss
    alternatives to Vista so casually and snidely is pure damage
    control. To those of us who are not wearing the viagra T-
    shirts, that goes beyond XP or 2000. The singularly better
    computer usage experience is not nullified by it's minority
    status. Not for the business that gets it. Exactly what
    makes you think this can't multiply out? What made your
    logic gates more logical than mine?

    If you can't or won't take full responsibility for tech
    decisions because of "circumstances beyond your control"
    please point me to the person who does.
    Harry Bardal
    • Thanks for proving that businesses are choosing Vista

      Joshua writes:
      [i]If for no other reason than the fact that when corporate IT next upgrades its PCs, none of them will come with XP ? and if that ain?t proof that monopolies lead a charmed, if unpleasing, existence, nothing is.[/i]

      Yet now you are daring to suggest that some have [b]chosen[/b] to switch and you also imply that those who haven't, have somehow been forced not to switch and yet you offer no proof. So the author is wrong, Windows does not have a monopoly and the upgrade from XP to Vista is [b]not guarenteed[/b] (as you pointed out). Thanks for proving then that those who have upgraded to Vista, have also done so by choice. They didn't have to. You said it.

      In 2007, when PCs started rolling out with Vista, did businesses have the ability to upgrade their PCs to Macs and run OS X? Yes. Yet few have.

      In 2001, when PCs started rolling out with XP, did businesses have the ability to upgrade their PCs to Macs and run OS X? Yes. Yet few did.

      In 2000, when PCs started rolling out with Win2000, did businesses have the ability to upgrade their PCs to Macs and run OS9? Yes. Yet few did.

      In 1998, when PCs started rolling out with Win98, did businesses have the ability to upgrade their PCs to Macs and run System7? Yes. Yet few did.

      I can go back to a point in time when businesses actually [b]did[/b] buy Apple computers in their businesses because Windows didn't exist. Yes, you heard it here folks, Apple has been an option [b]longer than Windows has been around[/b].

      Yet in each of the years when businesses upgraded their PCs, they rejected the Apple option [b]and chose Windows[/b].
      NonZealot
      • but for how long?

        You made seemingly logical points when you mentioned that few businesses switched to Mac when they had that "option". However, I must argue that it was not really an option (except for graphic design and publishing companies) because before OS X Panther, Mac OS sucked. I started using Macs in 1996 with the PowerPC models. The OS was unstable and sucky, though nicer than Windows 3.11. Later I had the opportunity to use the new iMacs with OS 9, and it had stability (bomb icon anyone?) and severe performance issues.

        When OS X arrived it was theoretically solid, but few people at businesses could really take a gamble with it. Now, OS X is a very mature desktop OS, there is the Mac mini (which is not that expensive), it's based on UNIX, OS X ran on Intel AND they have Office (you can argue it has some problems compared with the Windows version, but that's not the point) and other SW from Microsoft. They have been increasing their sales and market penetration lately .

        This is the 1st time in years I see Macs as a serious alternative to Windows for business (in US and Europe at least, in the rest of the world, Apple is just out of the question). Not to mention the new business features of the iPhone! Maybe Apple is pursuing a similar strategy that worked for the iPod: it increased sales of Mac computers in certain home user population, so the iPhone could do the same for business users.

        So who knows? Jobs & Co. seem to be very happy with offering their products to home users and the like (15 billion in cash!!) but I don't see them yet targeting business users as seriously and aggressively as they should. But for how long?
        markbn
        • Apple isn't geared for the enterprise

          Apple isn't setup to service the enterprise; and why should
          it? take a look at the type of people they would have to
          deal with in regards to the enterprise. Stuck up clueless
          pricks running the IT departments with chips on both
          shoulders. Incompetent programmers who think that
          they're Gods gift to the business because they're a 'VB
          expert'. All this based on the types of people who frequent
          this site and many others I frequent.

          With that being said, I'm wondering whether Snow Leopard
          with the focus on integration and fine tuning is a focus on
          at least developing a line up for small business. I don't
          think the large enterprise will ever catch on - which is
          stupid given that one can with the tax code depreciate
          computers effectively giving one a free computer if the
          upgrade cycle runs at 3 years (based on New Zealand tax
          depreciation schedule).

          Too bad IT people have a fetish over 'towers' and 'desktop'
          and wanting to have it all separate given that a low end
          iMac could do all what the enterprise needs. I swear some
          geeks see their computer as some sort of phallic symbol of
          their own manhood.
          Kaiwai
          • Two points:

            1) Your post reeks of bitterness.
            2) Businesses don't care about Macs for some pretty good reasons one of which is not buying proprietary hardware and especially not one that has its monitor built into the unit itself.
            Sleeper Service
          • Wow...

            [i]"...Stuck up clueless pr*cks running the IT departments with chips on both shoulders. Incompetent programmers who think that they're Gods gift to the business because they're a 'VB
            expert'. All this based on the types of people who frequent this site and many others I frequent..."[/i]

            Errmm, why do you "frequent" these sites, if you despise the people there so much?

            Also, I didn't realise owning an Apple made you so bitter!
            Scrat
      • @ NonZealot (yeah, right!)

        "Windows does not have a monopoly"<br><b>Moahahahaha!<br>Good one.<br>Too bad the American judicial system don't agree with your professional assessment of Microsofts legal status...<br>BTW, at what lawfirm do you work?<br><br>Nice try, you'll have to do better too try to clear Microsofts monopoly branding.
        thungurknifur
    • Dear Boss,

      My letter to my Boss

      "Dear Boss,

      As head of IT for this company, I implore you that we should switch to Ubuntu and move away from Windows and the Microsoft monopoly. I say this because, as a small business, we should not be promoting the MS monopoly by using their products. We instead should make our OS choices based on technical merit. We are championing a false economy and over a real and open one if we continue using MS products. It is our duty as Americans to fully support an open economy and choice and the MS monopoly goes completely against us as Americans. We need to make up for the mistakes that the small and medium businesses made before and us and take the lead in supporting a new and open economy, with choice being the norm in the OS .

      I understand that our Vista and XP PCs run all of our software well and we are currently having no problems, but we can find new software to run our accounting and time clock software and hope for a conversion from our existing platform. Our product bar code software written with Visual Basic in MS Access can be re-written in another program. All of the Ms Excel Visual Basic macros that YOU wrote to do many of our company tasks before I came to work here can also be rewritten. Sorry, I can't come up with a time table at this moment to get everything up and running, but I am sure that our large number of the Excel Spreadsheets that link to other Excel Spreadsheets that pull info from our Accounting software can be easily replaced with OpenOffice.

      In short, no matter what problems we may go through to change over our existing software and any costs involved in the time needed to make the switch, we must not, as true Americans, support the MS fascist regime any more.

      Sincerely,

      B.Beck"


      My Boss's reply

      "Blaine,

      I don't give a damn about the software industry and the fact that OS choice is needed for a healthy America. I care about our manufacturing industry and would like to have as much of a percentage of this industry's overall market share as MS has with its OS. Get your head out of your arse and get to work instead of writing me these stupid letters.

      Boss"


      Well darn, that didn't work. Maybe I can tell him that Harry said we should do it.
      B.Beck
      • ROFLOL It's just business

        You have struck the Linux/Apple nail on the head.

        Actually that is a great deal of the reason why MS stays within businesses. The other is the great lack of enterprise class solutions Linux/Apple offer. For example, Open Office cannot even begin to compare to MS Office in the enterprise. Oh it may work for the home/hobbyist user.

        In my 33 year career I've seen many an OS & CPU come and go. Anyone remember MS and IBM battling it out for OS dominance? The only argument from the Linux/Apple lovers seems to be "Software as a Religion". Which any business person will tell you "It's just business".
        dragon@...
        • Sorry, but IBM did not battle with MS

          They just rolled over and gave in. At the time there were quite a few who said that the reason was that IBM was a "service" company and that OS/2 was so solid that they couldn't make money servicing OS/2. Windows, on the other hand required a lot of service.

          If they were going to "battle it out" then IBM should have filed the anti trust lawsuit long before the DOJ did it.

          Perhaps there were performance problems for the enterprise that I never experienced as a SOHO user between 1994 (Warp 3.0 introduction) and 2005 when I finally switched to Linspire, I'm using Ubuntu now, but I never experienced any even when running several applications simultaneously and performing multiple simultaneous downloads on a 33K modem, starting with a 386DX40 with 16 Mb of RAM.

          OS/2's drawback must have been that "it just worked". My experience supports the above listed reason for IBM's capitulation.
          Update victim
      • Try..

        substituting OS for the environment :) that's even more funny.

        Also poor case in your letter to your boss. You all state only about the "right thing to do" not "the smart thing to do" so that's kind of a wrong angle there.

        Make a budget overview and make a TCO calculation, bosses are only interested in money. The more you save.. the more hero you are.
        TedKraan
      • Fairy Tales?

        [B]I understand that our Vista and XP PCs run all of our software well and we are currently having no problems,[/B]

        Seriously, between enterprise AV, Anti-Malware, bit-rot (XP, don't know about Vista), and how things just stop working, what world do you live in?

        If you want to make the switch, and you aren't completely locked into all proprietary functions, it's quite easy. You keep a few legacy systems for your accounting, ...

        You make is sound like management is always clueless. That isn't the case. 100K+ for word and licences is a good chunk of change for a 40 person SMB.

        TripleII
        TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
        • Your Windows machines stop working?

          [i]Seriously, between enterprise AV, Anti-Malware, bit-rot (XP, don't know about Vista), and how things just stop working, what world do you live in?[/i]

          Hmm, maybe you should hire more qualified support staff? Seriously, if someone told you they couldn't get Linux to work, would you admit that Linux doesn't work or that they need better staff? I do consulting work so I've been in many organizations, all of them run Windows on the majority of their desktops, and none of them just stop working.
          NonZealot
          • It's a LONG OL LIST.

            Not the desktop, applications, slowdowns, niggling problems just constantly creek in. For the non technical, it is RARE to find one without some complaint about something.

            My printer isn't working anymore.
            My computer doesn't see my scanner.
            Where did my dialup connection go?
            I can't get on the internet (latest one, 4 days ago, Zone Alarm person. They were on the internet, no DNS)
            I can't update my lockbox key (realtor, windows only app through USB)
            I can't get my mail.
            It is rebooting (while I wait on the phone), it takes a LONG LONG time.
            Railroad Tycoon just exits with unsupported video configuration (after running for over a year).
            AVG says it can't remove the file.
            WinME (oh man what a headache, that was my parents last Windows experience)
            ...

            A brand new Windows computer by and large mostly works (if not cripple with Norton, that's a program that should die). Over time, weird things just start to happen. A brand new OEMed Linux machine (by me) always works 100% (no crapware to deal with), and I just don't get support calls anymore. I check in once in a while with everyone (they are family) and it's always no problem and in a few cases "Oh, I upgraded to Ubuntu/SLED myself".

            As one support person, 30+ people, Windows and it's constant (again, no experience with Vista, I don't think any of them use it) attention required just killed me. Linux changed that.

            TripleII

            P.S. It is beyond rare that Windows completely fails to work in some fashion, but my latest soon to be converted person, 5+ minutes to boot her HP laptop (3 years old). New it took less than a minute.
            TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
          • Forgot an item.

            [B]Seriously, if someone told you they couldn't get Linux to work, would you admit that Linux doesn't work or that they need better staff?[/B]

            If you can't install Linux due to incompatibility, it is a no brainer useless to you. Let's stick with Apples and Apples, 2 computers, OEMed, they are delivered to customers already working.

            In all my installs, which now amounts to several hundred (upgrades over the years), modems (which are largely a don't care now), older Lexmark, Cannon and Brother wincrap...er, printers, and non native WPA (ndiswrapper, I hate having to use it, but have had to in some cases) are the problems installing I have had. Honestly, when something doesn't work now, I am highly surprised. Yes, I am the person who brings a live CD to Best Buy constantly as I recommend machines for people. They must pass the Live CD test before I recommend anything.

            EDIT: I don't even bother with Toshiba or Sony tests anymore, always proprietary crap. /EDIT

            TripleII
            TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
          • Windows Machines Stop Working?

            What, seriously? You can't be doing much tech support at all if you've never seen a Windows machine just roll over and die. I support a comparatively small number of machines on the side and I just got *two* that did exactly that. And that's not a rare scenario. I can assure you of that via the other support people I know.
            pj_mouse