The wait for Microsoft's Windows Vista has been so long and packed with contradictory reports of what it will or won't do, when it will or won't ship, it's hard for either customers or channel companies to nail down what do to about it and when.
The only certainty was that Vista would eventually ship, value-added resellers (VARs) and integrators would eventually have to pitch Microsoft Vista sales, and that customers would hesitate.
As Microsoft's release to manufacturing date approaches – late in October or early November at last report – SearchITChannel.com checked in with VARs to get the latest on what they're hearing from customers.
At the moment, most appear to be holding back on plans to move to Vista.
"I've heard reluctance from customers, just like when it came to [migrate to] Windows XP or other upgrades," said Bill Haas, owner of Computer Backup Group, a consulting and training firm in Boston, Mass. "Unless there is a distinct reason in terms of hardware and software, they are taking a wait-and-see approach."
BeckITSystems in Dulles reports that about 80% of its customers are cautious about Vista adoption, while 10% are enthusiastic early adopters, said Ed Becker, president of the Dulles, Va.-based solution provider. "The third group we serve, [another 10%], are letting us know that the key applications [vendors] for their business vertical will be releasing an upgrade that requires Vista and they want to migrate over to Vista then," he added.
Few analysts are willing to project a steep adoption curve, especially in large companies; but smaller customers may generate higher per-capita upgrade fees, if only because there is less of an existing IT infrastructure to slow them down.
Although the release Vista won't by any account result in a well-spring of immediate adoption, small business customers are more likely to adopt the new OS, while large customers will take a year or more to make the switch.
"SMBs aren't as sensitive to trying to standardize the desktop OS and are happy to adopt," said David Luft, senior vice president, development at Computer Associates in Islandia, N.Y. "Larger enterprises will want to standardize so more planning and analysis will evolve around how they will move to a new OS and the hardware associated with that."
As Vista trickles onto corporate PCs, solution providers do have some opportunity to build their business. "The channel will have some significant opportunities that vary depending on the industry vertical or company size they work with," said Luft.
In order to serve the needs of customers, solution providers must educate themselves on the new capabilities and technologies in Vista, and help customers navigate the maze of making sure that their hardware, networks and applications can leverage the newest Vista features.
Programs and procedures
Availability of favorite or critical applications may further impact the adoption of Vista. "We think that medium to large businesses will need a bit of time to work with software vendors to get applications supported, and built images of their systems before they deploy Vista," according to said Michael Silver, client-computing analyst at Gartner, Stamford, Conn. "We expect that to take 12 to 18 months."
In July, Microsoft estimated that about 1,000 ISVs were developing for Windows Vista, and that number increases daily.
Fifteen of the top 25 global ISVs are among those companies creating applications, the report added. "We are in the process of migrating 70 of our solutions, so we are very active in that way," said CA's Luft.
Although software vendors are starting early, getting up to speed with Vista will take time — and resellers and their customers may take this as another reason to wait before moving to Vista.
"We sell only Microsoft-based applications, so I know we will follow the Vista path but I think we want to make sure we go through appropriate testing and know products are certified on that platform," said Brian Kelly, president and owner, Cost Management Services, LLC (CMS), a solution provider in Farmington, Conn. "We see three- to six-month window after the release of Vista before applications are certified. It's just a matter of time."
Naseem Tuffaha, senior director, ISV sales and marketing at Microsoft expects that, within 12 months of its release, half the revenue generated by applications running on Windows will come from those running on Vista.
Solution providers have a role in helping customers figure out the complexity of their applications.
"There are a few opportunities for the channel," Silver said. "Some organizations will be looking for help testing applications, building system images and deploying images. There's room today to be helping organizations implement software distribution systems, as well as to install and manage Vista when the time comes."
"Server-based applications where you have a Web-based application will be the first to move to Vista, because it can be done without huge impact," said Nathan Hiscock, practice leader for Microsoft Technologies at INRANGE Consulting in Carmel, Ind. "Some bigger companies have software packages that were written for other operating systems and they will take longer to get there."
Many companies are also contending with home-grown applications and need to decide whether to migrate their in-house solution or find a new packaged solution to meet their needs. "Any migration is a great opportunity for VARs and integrators," according to David Raanan, general manager at ControlGuard, an endpoint security vendor in Bridgewater, N.J. "Especially those who are Microsoft certified should jump on the bandwagon."
Another huge opportunity is providing user support and training on Vista and the new applications coming out that support the OS. "We've been selling millions of dollars in help desk services [as companies get ready for Vista]," Lowenstein said.