Microsoft, typically known for a self-confident business approach has been sending clearly mixed signals on the health of Windows Vista that are perhaps indicative of the problems the OS is experiencing. The situation, rather uncharacteristic for Microsoft, which has had a long string of successes, is best summed up in the words of its own executives.
While Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates recently described that Vista was moving units at a "rapid sales rate", Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Ballmer told executives in a recent meeting that Vista was a "work in progress". The Microsoft designers who made Vista's unpopular User Account Control (UAC) admitted that it was designed to "annoy" the standard user. Perhaps even more revealing, Ballmer, while praising adoption rates at MIX 08 admitted to problems with the OS stating, "we did make the choice to kind of hurt compatibility, and our customers have let us know that has been very painful."
Vista has not received a much kinder reception with customers. While much of the blame for poor initial compatibility and problems since rests with third party hardware and PC manufacturers, Vista has been getting blasted for its problems. Market research firm Gartner said that Windows could collapse if the trends from Vista continue. The OS has earned Microsoft a major lawsuit for its high hardware requirements, which the plaintiffs allege Microsoft glossed over in advertising. And fair or not, many customers have turned back to the reliable Windows XP, abandoning Vista, to the chagrin of Microsoft.
Microsoft is also experiencing severe struggles in the business sector. According to BusinessWeek, a growing number of business are adopting a "Just Say No" policy on Vista, and are waiting until Windows 7, which should be due in 2010. These companies mostly use XP and a major factor for many of them is that Vista is simply not lean enough for their infrastructure.
Among the latest to jump on this bandwagon is General Motors. The automobile giant has said that it has encountered so many problems getting Vista to work on its machines that it is likely to skip the OS and wait for Windows 7. Says GM's Chief Systems & Technology Officer Fred Killeen, "We're considering bypassing Vista and going straight to Windows 7."
Killeen says that the high hardware requirements are the nail in the coffin. Many of the machines that have trouble running it won't be scheduled to be replaced until 2010 to 2011. Says Killeen, "By the time we'd replace them, Windows 7 might be ready anyway."
GM, like many larger manufacturers, is also finding that many of its smaller supporting software vendors haven't guaranteed their programs to work in Vista.
The GM situation is indicative of the market in general. The end picture is that Vista can run well on only a smaller subset of machines at the average tech business, and much of the software that engineers and other professionals rely on is not Vista-compatible.
Microsoft has sold 140 million copies of Vista, but has failed to match XP's success. Further, the majority of these copies were not sold individually, but included with new computers. While customers could in some cases elect to downgrade to Windows XP, this would cost them time and effort, making Vista acceptance for some, more acceptance out of lack of options, as opposed to acceptance based on desirability. Also, the number includes business customers whose deals with Microsoft automatically entitle them to copies of Vista. While all these numbers count towards sales, some of these companies have not used their copies as they currently have declined to update.
Mike Nash, a corporate vice-president at Microsoft, disputes that Vista is struggling in business. He points out that Bank of America, Continental Airlines, Cerner, and Royal Dutch Shell have all adopted the OS. However, he acknowledges that the OS is selling the strongest among the consumer market. He states, "We're seeing tremendous transition to Vista, particularly in the consumer space."
Some companies are opting to buy Vista merely to get XP licenses -- among these is Alaska Airlines. Its 2,000 office workers will be using Windows XP machines, which will be replaced with XP downgraded Vista machines as necessary. The company’s Senior Vice-President and CIO, Bob Reeder, states, "There's no business value in us continuing to chase that upgrade cycle."
In a recent market analysis it was found that at the end of last year Vista only held a 6.3 percent business sector OS market share, while competitor Apple's OS X held 4.2 percent. This is not so much a comment on Apple's success as both shares are relatively trivial. Rather it is more a comment on Vista's struggles in the business community.
The result has led to financial losses for Microsoft. Sales of its desktop Windows group, its most profitable, slumped 2 percent in Q1 2008. This led to an 11 percent fall in profits for the quarter. This spells trouble for Microsoft, which has sustained many of its fledgling offerings, such as the Zune, MSN online offerings, and Xbox 360 through periods of lack of profitability with its Windows profits.
Analysts indicate that Microsoft has two options. One is to try to improve its profitability in other market sectors, such as its online offerings. This is tough challenge as Microsoft has struggled online to develop a good strategy. While Microsoft has recently stated that it feels that it can achieve "independent" success, it has been left playing catch-up to Google for the last couple years.
The other big hope for Microsoft's continued success is for a turn-around with Windows 7. Early reports on Windows 7 indicate that it's shaping up nicely. It is supposed to be much leaner than Vista, which should win back some customers.
While Microsoft is such a sales juggernaut that it can weather below average sales, it always strives for excellence, which has earned it its market position. Thus it should be interesting to see how Microsoft reacts to the problems with Vista and the poor adoption in the business community.
quote: While Microsoft is such a sales juggernaut that it can weather below average sales, it always strives for excellence, which has earned it its market position.
quote: Is that why hackers couldn't get into it no matter how hard they tried until they exploited some Flash vulnerability?
quote: I don't see why this isn't a FUD type of article. Jason Mick pointed out every negative he could and not a single positive. That's a pessimistic view and designed to spread FUD.
quote: The biggest need - with all the malware, viruses, trojans, spyware out there - is more security. Without moving totally to Linux I'd say Windows Vista is the best alternative. We already know that Mac sure isn't.
quote: It would be the same if all I did was point out all the negatives of any Linux distro and not pointing out a single one of the well known positives.
quote: Sorry, the only way to protect yourself without putting up massive barriers is to not connect your computer to the internet. The Windows XP firewall offers zero outbound protection. Spybot is a joke. What, no AV protection?
quote: Besides the fact that Windows Vista (advanced) Firewall offers the ability to control outbound protection you also have User Access Control, which is far more than just clicking a button.
quote: In regards to "backwards compatibility" you need to understand that changes were made to make the OS more secure. If this breaks compatibility with older software then so be it.
quote: Businesses use Proxy / Firewall servers along with email servers which scan for viruses, so security built into an OS, in a business environment, is moot, pointless and useless.
quote: likewise, if security is paramount within the Vista OS, then it may be better if I set up my own Linux based proxy/firewall/virus scanner box and then connected my XP machine to it. I figure any single core P3 or P4 could run those apps under Linux with a gig of mem. Which is exactly the types of machines that people are throwing away.
quote: its also a testimony how well XP was designed.
quote: A security system that's so annoying that lots of people turn it of because they feel it makes there system unworkable yeah that really makes your PC a lot saver.
quote: I use Vista 64 from the beginning ...but i have to admit that it doesn't do anything that XP wouldn't do.
quote: For a better OS MS should break compatibility...
quote: Windows can't do multitasking at all..or rather can't do it very well. You really have to have utilize multitasking capabilities to really appreciate how beneficial it is. Imagines rendering in the background, playing music, downloading, multiple apps open and all that while you're playing a game that runs just fine and dandy with no slowdown.
quote: GM, like many larger manufacturers, is also finding that many of its smaller supporting software vendors haven't guaranteed their programs to work in Vista.
quote: I sure don't need rotating cubes and 6 different desktops to confuse me. If you need more space get widescreen and/or multiple monitors.
quote: Any XP machine used in business has this nifty software (available from a number of vendors) called antivirus. If you load it, you are protected. Not sure if you were aware of that fact, based on your post.
quote: It's absolutely necessary, but if you think antivirus alone is going to save you, well you don't know much about security.
quote: Oddly enough the same thing was said about Windows XP back in the day. People using Windows 2000 were going to skip Windows XP and wait for Longhorn (now Vista).
quote: We just started migration to XP only 3 years ago where I work. Vista is on the table, while we won't migrate to it right now we know we will begin migration to it sometime in 2009/2010.
quote: With rumours about Windows 7 being released in mid 2009 (so late 2010 closer to the truth?) then the policy at your work place must take into account the potential of skipping Vista and going straight to Win 7 too?
quote: Honestly what do you think is going to happen? XP is no longer sold as of June...
quote: I don't understand the fools that refuse to move forward and cling to the past.
quote: Every time this guy writes an article ppl start crying about bias yet when Michael Asher writes one of his bogus, biased, junk science articles on global warming all I hear is praise. Why don't we pick up on that bias? We call Asher's articles "editorials" but Mick doesn't get any excuses?
quote: The result has led to financial losses for Microsoft
quote: P4 3.0C, 1gig DDR 400, Radeon 9500 agp
quote: I've bought a Mac for my parents, and I use Vista myself. Being a designer, I can't imagine why you wouldn't pay $60 on a core2duo 1.8 and just get yourself out of the away from the childish looking XP. Honestly, it looks like playskool OS. Do you really want that extra 4fps?
quote: Mike Nash, a corporate vice-president at Microsoft, disputes that Vista is struggling in business. He points out that Bank of America, Continental Airlines, Cerner, and Royal Dutch Shell have all adopted the OS.