Vista May Still Have Its Day

Twenty-one months after its initial release, what do we know about Windows Vista ? That home users hate it, businesses are uninstalling it and -- according to Gartner Inc. -- it's proof that the 23-year-old Windows line is "collapsing" under its own weight.

Meanwhile, predecessor Windows XP has belatedly become so beloved that it's garnering more calls for "unretirement" than NFL icon Brett Favre did in his wildest dreams this summer.

But all of the griping about Vista and instant nostalgia for XP covers up a dry, statistical reality: XP itself was slow to catch on with users -- maybe even slower than Vista has been thus far. For instance, in September 2003, 23 months after its release, XP was running on only 6.6% of corporate PCs in the U.S. and Canada, according to data compiled by AssetMetrix Inc., an asset-tracking vendor that was later bought by Microsoft Corp. (That information was helpfully pointed out by a Computerworld reader.)

In comparison, Forrester Research Inc. reported that as of the end of June -- 19 months after Vista's November 2006 debut for business users -- the new operating system was running on 8.8% of enterprise PCs worldwide. Forrester analyst Thomas Mendel, who authored the report, wasn't impressed: He compared Vista to the ill-fated New Coke.

However, even Gartner, that prophet of Windows' doom, forecasts that Vista will be more popular at the end of this year than XP was at a similar juncture -- with 28% of the PC operating system installed base worldwide, vs. 22% for XP at the end of 2003.

"The uptake of XP was slower than people remember today," said Michael Cherry , an analyst at Directions on Microsoft in Kirkland, Wash. He noted that many IT managers "labeled XP a consumer-only upgrade" at first.

Vista's Challenges Echo Those of Windows XP

Early opinions of Windows XP were remarkably similar to those that many users offer about Windows Vista today.

For instance, a Computerworld survey of 200 IT managers conducted in the fall of 2001, just before XP was released, found that 53% of the respondents didn't plan to upgrade their PCs, while another 25% were undecided. And in an informal poll of 25 users a year later, only four said they had started deploying XP.

"We have not moved to XP, and we have no plans to," one CIO said in 2002. "This is an upgrade that offers nothing to a business customer."

Another IT manager said that the cost of upgrading to XP was "very high" and that there wasn't "a lot of perceived value" in moving up.

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