Canadians slow to upgrade Windows versions

A recent U.S. poll suggests IT managers are in no hurry to upgrade their Windows software and a Canadian analyst says things are no different north of the border.

Framingham, Mass.-based International Data Corp. (IDC) polled more than 300 IT managers using Windows NT or 2000. Most say they are not upgrading their desktop and server software at the same pace that Microsoft is releasing version upgrades.

“And we aren’t doing this any more quickly for sure, but if we are doing it less quickly is anyone’s guess,” said Alister Sutherland, director of software research at IDC Canada in Toronto. “Early indicators certainly suggest that the pickup of Windows XP is not particularly quick.”

Widespread adoption of Windows 2000 in the business community over the last year has kept many Canadian IT managers from picking up the new OS, and a major shift in hardware markets has harmed adoption rates as well, he added.

“When you have already updated an entire enterprise to Windows 2000 in the last year, there is not a big compelling reason to do it,” Sutherland said. “Hardware sales are really soft, in negative growth territory for the first time in the history of the industry and a lot of new OS sales are driven by hardware sales because it is bundled.”

The requirement that hardware must be manufactured after January 2000 in order to be XP-compatible is daunting to managers as well,” he said.

“The other issue is that you need a much more robust machine to run the operating system on,” he said. “For people who need the power, that’s great. But for people who are just happy toodeling along on what they have, there is no immediate need to do so.”

Contrary to the survey findings, XP is doing remarkably well in Canada, said Erik Moll, senior product marketing manager for Windows XP at Microsoft Canada Co. in Mississauga, Ont. His numbers show XP much further ahead than projected.

“The reaction has been positive with retail,” he said, adding that pre-Christmas numbers showed XP was 20 per cent ahead of projections. “On the corporate side, it’s win-win. It’s a minor upgrade for customers that have Windows 2000 and a major upgrade for customers who have Windows 9x.”

Moll said he expects XP to gain momentum on the business side in the first half of this year.

“There are some specific features in Windows XP that make it very attractive” including remote assistant and remote desktop, he said.

However, users say their movement to Microsoft’s latest operating systems will proceed on their schedule, not on Microsoft’s schedule,” said Al Gillen, a systems analyst with IDC who studies Windows customer trends.

The trend clashes with Microsoft’s new volume licensing program, called License 6.0, which requires corporate customers to stay current with each new version of Windows or risk paying more for the software, Gillen said.

Microsoft calls License 6.0 the most simple and cost effective way for customers to purchase its software. However, critics and some analysts have said that the new plan could end up costing customers as much as 107 per cent more than they currently pay for Microsoft software due to hidden costs associated with staying current.

As a result, about 15 per cent of the customers polled said that demands to keep upgrading corporate computing systems provided the incentive to move to a competing operating system, such as Linux and Unix, according to the survey.

“It’s a small percentage but nevertheless, for 15 per cent of its customers to be unhappy with a policy Microsoft is setting is not a good sign,” Gillen said.

IDC Canada, in Toronto, Ont., is at

IDC, in Framingham, Mass., is at

Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash., is at

-With files from IDG News Service

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