Microsoft's Midsized Market Migraine: CIOs Say They Plan To Skip Vista

The majority of the 340 CIOs polled at the event, which is owned by ChannelWeb parent Everything Channel, indicated that they plan to skip Vista altogether. The straw poll of raised hands came in response to a question at the outset of a session titled "Windows and Office " Which Version and for How Long," conducted by Gartner Vice President and Distinguished Analyst Michael Silver. The Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner is one of the top market research firms advising midmarket companies on if and when they should move to Vista.

Silver said Microsoft's view of Vista is "serene and calm," as evidenced by a slide he showed of the Wizard of Oz with Dorothy and friends skipping down the yellow brick road. In reality, he said, the Vista situation faced by midmarket customers is more like "Fear Factor" as evidenced by slides he showed of automobiles flipping over and other daredevil stunts and even a slide of a dentist drilling a tooth with no novacaine. The slides drew hoots and laughter from CIOs.

A May Gartner survey of midsize CIOs found that 55 percent of midsize organizations had no Vista systems. Forty percent of those polled at the time said they will have no Vista deployed by the end of 2008. Finally, 75 percent of those polled projected they will have 25 percent of their PCs running Vista by the end of 2009.

"Is Windows Vista really as bad as it is portrayed in the press?" asked Silver. "Or is it just not better than XP? To some extent it almost has to be better than what the press says. If you read the press about Windows Vista you'd think it was responsible for the Hurricane Ike damage."

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In interviews after the session, several CIOs said Microsoft faces a Herculean task to get them to move to Vista. "The whole audience is sticking with XP," said one CIO for a hospitality business, who was not surprised by the straw poll results. "Everyone is waiting. Everyone is in the same position that I am."

Several CIOs said that Microsoft has done a poor job getting independent software vendors (ISVs) to get their new applications up and running on Vista.

The hospitality industry CIO, who did not want to be identified, for example, said he has no plans to move his company to Vista because his front office applications run on Windows XP. "I run Vista at home, but not for the company," he said. "My (company Windows XP) Java (reservation) application doesn't support Vista."The company's reservation application runs on XP, he said.

"Until our applications are upgraded it makes no sense for me to look at Vista," he said. "Even the credit card company application we use relies on XP. If we went to Vista we wouldn't be PCI complaint."

The CIO said his message to Microsoft is simple: "Give incentives to software developers and get them help in getting their applications onto Vista. Microsoft needs to do a better job working with ISVs. Until ISVs get help from Microsoft they are going to go at their own pace."

A CIO for a data communications company with 1,000 employees also said he sees no need to move to Vista because there is just no compelling application reason to upgrade to the operating system. "We are applications driven," he said. "When there is an application reason to move we'll go with it. We are standardized finally on XP. Everything works. There is just no reason to go to Vista." Complicating matters, the CIO said his capital budget was frozen until January. "We are reissuing old PCs," he said.

The CIO said his message to Microsoft: "Give me a reason to move to Vista. I have to get something out of it besides the benefit of upgrading. My applications don't require it." The CIO said his company tested Vista on a number of systems and found troubling compatibility issues. "It isn't a price issue," he said. "It's a hassle issue."

What's more, the CIO said he is not impressed by the millions of dollars Microsoft is spending on Vista ads featuring comedian Jerry Seinfeld and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. "You need to give me a business reason to upgrade," he said. "Microsoft may think they have done that, but they haven't."

A CIO for a manufacturing company said his company had planned to move to Vista but pushed its timetable back after experiencing problems including interoperability issues and what he called all kinds of "strange things" happening between the different versions of Office and Windows and SharePoint. The manufacturing company has been forced to use different software patches to run Vista in its current environment, he said.

Making matters more difficult, the CIO said his company does not have enough IT staff to do what he called "full regression testing" on Vista. On the systems that have been moved to Vista, the company has seen a significant increase in help desk calls, he said.

Silver, for his part, said the biggest competitors to Windows Vista are "Microsoft's older products and they are really quite viable for a good number of years." In fact, he said the good news for midmarket CIOs is that Windows XP Pro will be supported in its mainstream phase by Microsoft until April 2009 and with an extended phase that guarantees security fixes until April 2014.

"For those of you skipping Vista we have a pretty long runway in terms of how long Windows XP will be supported by Microsoft," he said. "The catch here is just because Microsoft is going to support it until 2014, a lot of software vendors that you are using will not support XP for that long."

Silver said that many companies have experienced similar application support problems with Windows 2000. He said a number of Gartner clients migrated last year from Windows 2000 to Windows XP because application support had gotten so bad with Windows 2000.

Silver said most organizations should plan to have all of their PCs off Windows XP by the end of 2012. "Plan for year end 2012 and I think you'll be in pretty good shape," he said.