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Vista migration tools "unlikely to boost sales"

Microsoft released a set of six tools Tuesday to help users upgrade to Vista, but the tools may not help in the first step of any migration: deciding to do it.

The set of six tools Microsoft Corp. released Tuesday to help users upgrade to Windows Vista are unlikely to boost the new operating system's sales, according to industry experts.

The Vista migration tools are designed to help administrators deploy the operating system, integrate it with third-party applications, manage license keys for multiple computers and assess PCs to see if they are powerful enough to run Vista.

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The rollout also includes sales advice and implementation guides from Microsoft, which are "very valuable" contributions that are rare for vendors in general, according to Darren Bibby, senior analyst of global software sales channels at IDC Corp., a Framingham, Mass.-based research firm.

Microsoft has seen slower Vista sales than it had hoped, but Bibby suggested that the buzz over it could at least give value-added resellers (VARs) an excuse to talk to their clients. Even if they don't end up selling any copies of Vista, he said, issues like hardware requirements and compatibility with other applications "are great conversations to have, and that may be a great way to get in the door," Bibby said.

But VARs can have that conversation even without Microsoft's new hardware assessment tool, said Loi Banh, owner and CEO of Banh Inc., a Lancaster, Pa.-based consulting firm.

"You kind of gauge when you look at the machine if it's ready," he said. "You can take a look at the hardware."

And if the hardware isn't strong enough to handle the "beefier" OS, Banh said, his advice to customers is to just wait until the next round of new computer purchases. Although it's a little early to tell yet, Banh said, there probably is not a major benefit in using Vista compared to Windows XP.

Vista brings Windows a facelift that users like, Banh said, but it remains to be seen whether changes in the appearance of administration tools are cosmetic tweaks that will only force IT staff to relearn the interface – or whether they'll actually be easier to use.

"I'm hearing mixed feedback from people," Banh said. "When they use it, some like it, some don't."

There are also some changes under the hood. Microsoft said it has added security features, including better memory protection, which should reduce the severity of crashes – though Banh said that the difference there has not stood out yet. For administrators, improvements in virtualization and disk-image creation will make installing Vista much easier, Banh said.

If Vista sales have been unimpressive, it's not for lack of effort on the part of Microsoft, which has "a very good engine" for marketing its products, Bibby said.

"It's not a lack of money, it's not a lack of resources," he said. "The only possible thing is what the product is, or what the message is."

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has suggested that piracy may be slowing Vista sales, and the company may step up its antipiracy initiatives, he said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Yuval Shavit, News Writer.

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