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Windows Vista sales are unimpressive, and Microsoft partners don't mind

Windows Vista sales won't overtake Windows XP until 2009, but Microsoft partners say the poor sales aren't hurting them.

Windows Vista sales are ramping up, but it will take two more years to surpass sales of Windows XP, according to a recent Gartner Research report. However, far from being disappointed that a new product isn't setting the world on fire, many Microsoft partners said a slow migration is fine with them.

Gartner projects that Windows Vista sales will increase to 324 million units next year and 596 million in 2009; it predicts sales of XP will decrease to 660 million units next year and 516 million in 2009.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates told a Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) audience in May that the company had sold almost 40 million copies of Vista at that time and that growth of Vista sales was the fastest of any operating system in the company's history.

Analysts have said most of those sales come with new PCs, more than 90% of which come standard with the latest version of Windows. Estimates in Microsoft's press materials put sales of "premium" editions -- such as Vista Business, which is not the typical version available at consumer retail -- at 78%.

Microsoft is trying to boost Vista's sales to business users through marketing campaigns, but partners said they do not feel pressured to sell it instead of the still-popular XP.

"Our strategy is to wait," said Ron Herardian, CEO of Global System Services Corp. in Mountain View, Calif. "We're not investing in Vista, and I don't know when we will."

The only Microsoft partners who may be hurting from the lack of Windows Vista sales are those with a narrow focus on Microsoft products, said Todd Barrett, a sales director at CPU Sales and Service Inc. He said the Waltham, Mass.-based solution provider has "a lot more important IT projects that are on the plate" to reduce customers' expenses and increase their revenue.

Of Vista's sales volume, Barrett said, "I can't really say it's affected us one way or the other. There are so many opportunities that we're working on."

David Bollig, owner of Burnsville, Minn.-based PC manufacturer Northern Computer Technologies, agreed. "I know some resellers who have tried to sell only Vista," he said. "I think they're nuts."

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The reason Windows Vista sales have yet to meet expectations among business users is the lack of a clear value proposition, Herardian said. Applications drive operating system upgrades, and users see no reason to risk performance and compatibility issues by running their current applications on Vista, he said.

Barrett said he hears the same from his customers.

"Its not as simple as just, 'Let's upgrade to Vista,'" he said. "XP Pro works fine for just about everybody out there."

"This is a weird situation, and an unprecedented one," Herardian said. "We already knew the demand wasn't going to be strong."

"When they launch something new, we let Microsoft spend the money and the time," Bollig said. You don't have to do a lot to prepare for selling Vista, he added.

But for now, it will just be business as usual.

"At this point I would say Vista is irrelevant," Herardian said. "It's just not a factor."

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