Leader: Microsoft faces a tough sell for Windows Vista

Lukewarm reception from CIOs as open source looms...

Lukewarm reception from CIOs as open source looms...

It may be early days but the Microsoft hype machine has already started to kick in around its next incarnation of Windows, now that Longhorn has a new, official name - Vista - and the first beta version is in the hands of developers.

Though it is too soon to make any sensible judgements on the software itself, some signs are emerging that it's going to be something of a rocky road for Microsoft.

First off is the name. Already a host of organisations are claiming rights to the Vista tag, with a US military veterans group promising to give Redmond a bit of a fight. We're betting it's only a matter of time before these disputed are resolved.

On a more serious level there is evidence that CIOs and IT directors of businesses using Microsoft software are preparing to play hardball over the company's upgrade cycle and licensing costs.

Windows Vista is due sometime in 2007 but a poll of silicon.com's CIO Jury found most have not yet started to plan for the operating system in terms of budget and upgrade cycles.

There appears to be a feeling among CIOs that they are increasingly prepared to make a stand - they will only upgrade when it suits them and not when it suits Microsoft. Many on the CIO Jury said they will need to see real business benefits and ROI before considering an upgrade to Vista.

This is an area to which Microsoft will have to pay careful attention. The company will have to come up with solid business reasons as well as technical ones for organisations to switch, thanks to the increased business-savvy of today's IT leaders. Given the long wait and big promises about Windows Vista, it really is going to have to be something special.

Then there's open source. The threat to migrate to Linux has been increasingly used as a tool by both public and private sector organisations to get a better deal out of Microsoft over the last couple of years. As open source continues to mature, this is likely to feature in many of the conversations between CIOs and Microsoft salespeople when it comes to the big sell for Vista.

Though Microsoft has some challenges to face in selling Vista to the user community, it's obviously not curtains for the Redmond giant in the operating system realm. For smaller businesses it is easier to switch to an alternative or stay on an old version of Windows but when it comes to large organisations, it will be a brave CIO indeed who makes the decision to drop Microsoft altogether.

Nonetheless, it's looking like the switch to Vista will be a well-considered decision, not an 'automatic upgrade', like so many versions of Windows past.