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Vista adoption off to a slow start

SMB adoption of Vista will be relatively modest. Still, there are a lot of businesses prepared to make the move.

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are in no rush to adopt Microsoft's Vista operating system. Many will, but for most, a new operating system availability isn't reason enough to rush out and deploy it.

A survey of SMBs by Access Markets International Partners Inc. (AMI) revealed that 7% of small businesses and 17% of midsized businesses are interested in adopting Vista by the end of 2007. AMI estimates that this represents 447,000 companies.

I don't see any advantage to adopting it. It's just an upgrade.
Richard Paz
IT managerChildren's Relief Nursery
Richard Paz, IT manager at Children's Relief Nursery, a nonprofit family support services agency in Portland, Ore., said he's unsure about his Vista plans for 2007.

"Since we're a nonprofit, we have to be careful with what we spend," said Paz, who added that he would wait until Vista becomes available on TechSoup.org, a marketplace for low-cost technology for nonprofit organizations.

Paz said the need to upgrade his hardware would also hold him back from an early adoption.

"I don't see any advantage to adopting it," Paz said. "It's just an upgrade. There's a lot of hype. If I were an IT manager at a large corporation, I'd say you need to wait a couple years to see what pans out. A lot of people jump for it just because. But I think the majority of companies, whether a nonprofit or a small or big corporation, are still running [Microsoft] Server 2003. They already have an infrastructure in place, and [Vista] would mean a lot of change. People are just getting used to XP."

Yesterday, Microsoft officially released Vista, the first new version of its Windows operating system in five years. Vista, which Microsoft has made available in four versions (two for the home and two for business), boasts a flashy new graphical user interface that leverages a PC's graphics card. Microsoft also overhauled its approach to security with Vista, which has had third-party security vendors blitzing the media with stories about why their products will still be essential on the desktop.

But businesses are left wondering how important it is for them to upgrade to Vista when Windows XP serves them just fine. Vista will require many organizations to upgrade their hardware. The new interface will necessitate some training, and just the man-hours alone for IT workers upgrading individual machines will cost some organizations a small fortune.

AMI reported that the PC refresh rate, currently at every three to four years, will be a leading driver of adoption. Also, efforts to standardize operating systems for security purpose, a 2007 priority among 40% of SMBs, will be a factor.

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"On the one side, just the fact that small businesses tend to have fewer PCs and laptops to upgrade, it would make Vista less painful for them," sad Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT Research in Hayward, Calif. "But on the flip side, smaller businesses tend to have tighter IT budgets than large enterprises do. Unless a company's desktops were so archaic that a hardware upgrade is in the works already, I don't see them going to Vista just to get Vista."

King said SMB adoption will be more robust about 18 to 24 months down the line, and businesses might take the opportunity to look around at alternative desktop operating systems.

"Since Vista requires a significant hardware upgrade, this is a time to look at alternatives. There hasn't ever been a better time to think about desktop Linux. It used to be for a long time that Linux was like a hobbyist project. It's still not as easy or seamless a user experience as Windows is, but if you're looking at significant investments, and you're looking at your workforce getting used to a new operating system environment anyway -- Office 2007 particularly has a steep learning curve -- why not look at alternatives?"

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Writer

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