Windows Server 2008 won't spur Vista migrations, Microsoft partners say

Microsoft says Vista and Windows Server 2008 are better together, but partners expect customers to adopt Server '08 more quickly than Vista.

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LOS ANGELES -- "Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008: Better together."

So read signs hanging outside Microsoft's "Heroes Happen Here" event this week. It may be true, but Microsoft partners at the event said the launch of Windows Server 2008 won't lead more customers to begin Vista migrations.

CEO Steve Ballmer said the release of Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) will address its predecessor's compatibility problems and improve other issues that have led to lower-than-hoped-for numbers of Vista migrations.

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"Vista SP1 will do exactly what folks want it to do," Ballmer said. "Windows Vista, with SP1, is now fully ready for the kind of broad enterprise deployments that our customers have been looking forward to."

Partners see things a little differently. Most expect customers to quickly upgrade to Windows Server 2008, but the sheer size of most Vista migrations -- and relative user satisfaction with the incumbent Windows XP -- means they will happen much more slowly.

"Because it's on the desktop side, it's a lot harder to deploy," said Haig Balikian, senior systems consultant for Microsoft partner S and L International in Pasadena, Calif.

Microsoft released Vista to volume licensees in late 2006, but as of November 2007 only 2% of businesses were running the new operating system, according to Forrester Research. (By contrast, 84% were running Windows XP.) And Gartner predicted that it would take two years for Vista to outsell XP. (To be fair, general availability of Vista at retail and bundled with PCs occurred in early 2007.)

Still, even the biggest skeptics agree that mass Vista migrations are a matter of when, not if. Microsoft will end its mainstream support for Windows XP in 2009.

"At some point, people are going to have to migrate," Balikian said.

At CompuCom, a Dallas-based Microsoft partner, systems architect Charley Ballmer said he has yet to see one customer that has fully completed a Vista migration. Many plan to do so this year, but "I don't know if that is because of Server '08," he said.

Still, if those customers follow through with their Vista migrations this year, they will be able to deploy it with Windows Server 2008. That will allow Microsoft partners to more tightly integrate the two operating systems, CompuCom's Ballmer said.

Microsoft partners said that customers don't want to start a Vista migration until they can be sure it will support all of their hardware and applications. Some have also taken issue with Microsoft for an unwillingness to fix those compatibility problems. But with the release of Vista SP1, and as more independent software vendors (ISVs) and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) certify their products for Vista, Vista migrations should increase, according to Tyson Hartman, vice president of enterprise technology solutions for Avanade, a Microsoft partner in Seattle.

"It's steadily growing, and we're excited by that," he said.

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