Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Vista: Still Heir to the Throne?

While much of the buzz about Windows Vista in the trade press and among analysts has been negative, a few numbers have popped up that seem to support the beleaguered operating system.

Windows XP has proven to be an unrelentingly popular operating system, but it wasn't always the star of the Windows show. Computerworld in August compiled numbers that showed that XP was running only 6.6 percent of corporate PCs in the United States and Canada in September 2003, almost two years after its October 2001 release. Vista, on the other hand, had an 8.8 percent worldwide enterprise market share at the end of June -- 19 months after its November 2006 release to enterprises -- according to Forrester Research Inc.

Of course, those comparisons aren't strictly apples-to-apples. For starters, the 2003 XP market share is a North American figure, while the Vista number is a worldwide percentage. Beyond that, the XP number originally came from AssetMatrix, a company Microsoft later bought.

Most notably, however, and perhaps most importantly, XP is much older now than its predecessor and primary competitor, Windows 2000, was in 2003. Windows 2000 debuted in February 2000 and was therefore not quite four years old in late 2003 when XP had only 6.6 percent market share. By comparison, XP will turn seven this month -- and, unless drastic changes happen before press time, Vista will still have less than 10 percent of the enterprise market.

In short, XP's market share is unprecedented for an OS of its advanced age.

"XP is the most mature operating system that has ever had 90 percent penetration in business," says Paul DeGroot, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft in Kirkland, Wash. "We're now talking about a system that's seven years old, and is still used by a majority of businesses."

That might not be the case forever, though. Forrester, in an August report, stated that Vista was gaining a foothold in the enterprise, and argued: "IT operations folks are at a critical inflection point and should deploy Windows Vista to:
  1. stay current with Microsoft's and independent software vendors' support lifecycles;
  2. help minimize today's security, management and productivity challenges; and
  3. better position your business to eventually embrace 'Windows 7.'"

Related article: So You've Decided to Skip Vista...