Eric Lai

Windows Vista - faster adoption than XP?

By Eric Lai
August 22, 2008 3:27 PM EDT

Another month, another Forrester Research report on Windows Vista. But wait! Rather than the negative spin of last month's report, in which analyst Thomas Mendel opined that Vista was in danger of becoming as big a failure as "New Coke," this report by analyst Benjamin Gray comes to a different conclusion.

"The factors that held back PC refreshes and OS migrations in the first half of 2008 will subside and make 2009 a big year for change," wrote Gray, who cited four reasons. "1) Despite the economy, aging hardware will force new PC purchases; 2) Microsoft's recent initiative to restore its public image will ease -- although far from solve -- challenges of how users perceive Windows Vista; 3) base hardware configurations will be more robust and will come with a minimum of 2 GB of memory; and 4) Windows XP will be one year older, making it an elderly eight years old."

Gray goes on to infuriate Mac fans by dismissing it as a "niche solution" that "still won't be an enterprise-friendly offering for widescale corporate deployments." Linux, he says, will "continue to flounder on thick-client desktops." He also argues that skipping Vista for Windows 7 is a mistake, "because Windows Vista investments will ultimately pay off with better compatibility for this next release."

Gray based his analysis in part on Forrester's survey of 50,000 PCs from 2,500 companies that visited between October 2007 and the end of June this year. That was the same data cited by Mendel, including the key finding that Vista's share of the corporate market was 8.8%, with XP still holding 87.1%.

Mendel saw that as a sign of Vista's weakness. But Gray sees the glass half-full: Vista's share is up 76% in nine months, and remains double the Mac's share.

Moreover, Gray's interviews with IT managers indicate a "new trend" of Vista migrations from XP machines, not just very-old Windows 2000 ones.

"The mindset is really beginning to shift with Service Pack 1 (SP1) now on the market and with organizations having more than 18 months to test for hardware and application compatibility," he wrote. "Desktop operations are also increasingly realizing that the investments they make with Windows Vista today will ultimately pay off if and when they're ready to deploy 'Windows 7.'"

While Forrester may seem to be contradicting itself, remember that analysts, like reporters and columnists on the same publication, are allowed to have independent opinions.

And while you may disagree, even vehemently, with Gray, I think it's hard to deny that it takes a certain amount of guts to consistently call it as he, a Vista bull, sees it, what with all of the negative publicity around Vista.

Last November, Gray said of Vista: "Vista isn't a matter of if, but of when and how." This April, Gray released a report, 'Building the Business Case for Windows Vista.'

I'm about to release a long analytical piece on Monday that also goes against the grain. Contrary to the conventional wisdom that Vista is, well, sucking, I argue that third-party statistics -- not Microsoft's -- show Vista is actually doing pretty well, and is probably being adopted FASTER than XP was out of the starting blocks.

As a preview, I'll cite some: XP was running on 6.6% of North American corporate desktops 22 months after its release, according to AssetMetrix Inc. Meanwhile, Vista is used -- not just installed and then uninstalled -- on 8.8% of corporate desktops 19 months after its debut, according to Forrester's global stats (which one would imagine to be a slower-adopting sample than the U.S./Canadian one).

Another survey of 1.8 million online gamers by Valve Corp. finds 18% running Vista today. And even that prophet of Windows' doom, Gartner Inc., expects Vista's share at the end of this year to be higher than XP's was at the end of 2003.

I go into detail how all of the instant nostalgia over XP has led people to forget how much they held off and hated on XP, criticizing it for the same offenses as Vista today.

Please take a look starting August 25th and let me know what you think.