Vista a year later: Why IT managers clung to the status quo

vista.jpgIt didn’t feel like anyone was really rooting for Vista last year. Seldom has a product been launched with such low expectations from industry observers – expectations that in some respects had little to do with the vendor or even the product itself.

On this, Vista’s anniversary, the occasion feels less like a cause for celebration but a ritual in self-righteousness on the part of those who want to prove how astute they were. I’m not going to bother, because Vista’s prospects weren’t that difficult to forecast. It’s a crappy market for upgrades, especially operating systems. Companies are cheap. XP is still doing a decent job. Instead, why not explore an alternate scenario: What if Vista had taken the enterprise market by storm?

The most basic outcome: corporate networks would probably be safer and better managed than they are right now. These, and not the fancy-dancy UI stuff, were the important feature sets Microsoft incorporated into the product. Would Vista have helped stave off the rampant Storm worm? Maybe not, but it might have gotten in its way a little, and that would have saved many firms a lot of pain. The management features, meanwhile, sounded like a laundry list of what you would assume most IT managers are asking for: Remote Assistance to deal with out-of-office workers, a Performance console to speed up troubleshooting and a completely rewritten Even Viewer to be more proactive about problems. You can’t keep whining about how bad Microsoft’s software is if you don’t give this kind of update a chance.

Vista adoption would have forced a lot of companies to invest in new desktop hardware, which might have led some users to explore the advancements PC and component makers have been making lately. Home users have already started to experience the power of hyperthreaded applications from the more recent Intel processors, for example, but businesses have been slow to investigate whether they might have processes that could benefit from improved performance at the client level. Instead they invest in more expensive software and wonder why everyone seems to be working at the same pace they always have.

It should be noted that Microsoft not only hoped for customers to embrace Vista but a combination of the OS, the latest Office and the latest Exchange. If that had happened, a lot more companies might be better prepared to move to unified communications, content management and integration of user applications with business intelligence and other advanced IT tools. Instead, they’ll probably try to adopt the advanced IT tools and realize they neglected to lay the desktop computing foundation for such projects.

Vista’s supposed failure did not come at a great gain of any competitor, be it the Mac OS or any viable desktop Linux, including Novell’s Suse. For all the hyperbole, enterprises did not move en masse from a desktop OS environment to the kind of purely online application environment which Google and others have been promoting. Vista’s biggest enemy was the status quo. And the status quo, through the media, analysts and even a lot of customers, got nearly as much marketing support as Microsoft gave Vista.

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