Article

Windows Server 2008 sales outlook uncertain

Colin Steele, Executive Editor

Few experts believe it will be hard for Microsoft solutions partners to sell Windows Server 2008 when it comes out in February. The questions are who will buy it and, more importantly, when, considering

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the relatively long sales cycle endemic to server software and the historically slow takeoff of many major Windows updates.

The first wave of customers will likely be those who currently run Windows 2000 Server , according to John Enck, a research vice president for Gartner Research. He estimated that about 40% of the Windows Server market runs Windows 2000 Server , which Microsoft will stop supporting in 2010. Those users will want a "really rapid migration" to Windows Server 2008, he said.

Michael Cherry, a lead analyst for Directions on Microsoft, agreed that Windows 2000 Server users will have the greatest incentive to upgrade before Microsoft's support expires.

"That's always an issue," he said. "You're going to want to move faster than the others."

But Enck and Cherry disagreed on the prospects for selling Windows Server 2008 to other customers. Enck thinks Windows Server 2003 users are "not going to be inclined to do a broad upgrade."

"In general, people don't get excited about server releases," he said. "People aren't chomping at the bit to get their hands on it. It doesn't change the world."

The only other customers Enck expects might be early adopters of Windows Server 2008 are those who really want to move up to a 64-bit operating system, or want to take advantage of all the potential of Exchange Server 2007, which will only be possible on Windows Server 2008.

Cherry expects a more widespread adoption by customers who want to use featres like network access protection, Terminal Services and enhancements to Active Directory.

"The outlook for it is pretty strong, and it should sell quite well," he said. "There are some new features in the product that I think companies will be interested in."

Targeting the right customers should be the biggest challenge that value-added resellers (VARs) and systems integrators (SIs) face when selling Windows Server 2008.

Some observers have complained because its advanced features -- such as its virtualization capabilities -- are not scheduled to come out for months after the February release date.

But Enck said that shouldn't have an adverse effect on sales, because they will ship during the period most potential customers are testing Windows Server 2008 anyway. By the time widespread deployments happen, all the delayed features should be available, he said.


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