Small businesses pull the shutters on Vista

Small business pulls the shutters on Vista

Small business users, like larger enterprises, are in no rush to adopt Microsoft Windows Vista with hardware requirements, a lack of interoperability with business applications and cost of the new operating system (OS) the major stumbling blocks.

Microsoft's first major upgrade to its OS was launched on 30 November last year and reception to it from larger enterprises has been less than enthusiastic.

The message has sunk in to a handful from the education sector, however, a majority of chief information officers and administrators who have spoken to ZDNet Australia are adopting a wait and see approach. And the small business sector is taking a similar stance.

Small businesses have shown very little interest in Vista at all to date, according to Microsoft Partner Phrixus Technologies' business development manager Alex Day, who consults to small business customers.

Day said that most users will wait until they are scheduled for hardware upgrades before taking on the new OS.

"Small businesses have not been too welcoming of Vista at all -- they think it is going to be a very big learning curve for them, and are scared of that.

"They are also concerned that some applications, namely their customer relationship management systems, are not yet compatible with Vista.

"Even some security suites such as Trend Micro, as shown by our own research and development, are not compatible yet," Day said.

The lures of enhanced security and increased graphics capabilities are unlikely to be enough to win the small business market over to Vista, according to Hydrasite analyst Michael Warrilow.

"There is just no compelling driver for this market at all as yet," Warrilow said. "Professional services organisations and power users may get some benefit out of the graphics, and will probably already have notebooks with the right graphics cards and other specifications in them, but for the average small business user there are more reasons for people not to migrate at present then there are for them to make the shift."

Instead, according to Sydney Chamber of Commerce spokesperson Paul Ritchie, small business users will sit back and wait until product usage matures, and prices drop.

"Small businesses, by their nature, are run by people that are time poor -- they are much more likely to sit back and see how other users are benefiting from the technology before taking it on themselves," Ritchie said.

"The purchaser in a small business is also pretty savvy -- they know from experience that prices will drop the more something is in use, and they for that to happen before making any purchase themselves."

Lorenzo Modesto, general manager of Sydney-based virtualised hosting provider Bulletproof Networks, said his company has not even considered evaluating Vista. Bulletproof runs an equal mix of PCs running Windows XP and the Linux open-source Ubuntu OS.

"We really like other people to do the bleeding edge work with new technologies -- because we manage technology for our customers we really do need to be using proven, mature technologies," Modesto told ZDNet Australia.

"While we are sure that some key factors such as stability and security have improved on the previous operating system, the fact that other areas such as interoperability could be short of a nightmare means we would hold off for at least six months after we could see wide-spread adoption."

Little choice for SMBs
Yet small business may soon be left with no choice but to upgrade to Vista. Retail giant Harvey Norman, which boasts a "very large" small-business customer base, has already made plans to phase Windows XP machines out of circulation. The retailer, however, could not give concrete dates as to when XP computers would be phased out.

Harvey Norman national business manager Paul English said that it has had quite a substantial number of small business customers enquiring about Vista ahead of the global consumer launch on 30 January.

"... we think the launch of Microsoft Office 2007 [also on 30 January] will increase this," English said.

But despite having four models of Vista to choose form -- Basic, Premium, Business and Ultimate -- prices may still stop cash registers from ringing, according to Forrester analyst Tim Sheedy.

"You have to remember that for a small business, Windows Vista is expensive -- I can really not envisage any small business that would want to go out and buy Vista purely for the reason for upgrading," Sheedy said.

"People will instead wait until they have to replace their PCs or notebooks before taking on Vista, as a built in OS of these."

"And the replacement cycle of hardware in a small business can be quite long -- about four years is what we measure."