Vista Makes Converts of Gamers, Enterprises

The Internet's chattering classes may have already given up on Windows Vista, but two key segments of the PC population apparently haven't.

More than a third of online gamers are running Windows Vista, according to a January survey (scroll down to "Windows verison") by online gaming company Valve Corp. That's almost double the 18% of the nearly 2 million online gamers surveyed by Valve last August.

Meanwhile, almost one third of North American and European corporations have started deploying Vista, according to a report released late last week by Forrester Research.

While Vista has been bashed repeatedly, IT managers are actually "slowly warming" to the operating system two years after its release, wrote analyst Ben Gray .

Nearly 10% of enterprise PCs were running Vista in August and September, when Forrester interviewed 962 IT decision makers at North American and European companies.

Despite "considerable interest in Windows 7 ," Gray wrote, Windows Vista is finally shaping out to be the operating system that dethrones Windows XP."

XP still dominates, with a 71% share, but that is down 16% from its 87% share of corporate desktops in Forrester's survey results in the three months earlier.

XP is a "lame-duck operating system," Gray wrote.

Similarly, XP is still run by 65% of players at Steam , an online site for PC gaming that requires users to run Windows 2000 , XP or Vista. But 34% were running Vista, which offers more advanced graphics-rendering capabilities desired by gamers.

Those running the 32-bit version of Vista outnumbered users of the more advanced 64-bit flavor by a ratio of three to one -- an indicator of how representative of the overall consumer population Steam's sample is.

Besides the 30% of IT managers who told Forrester last fall they were already deploying Vista, another 27% said they planned to deploy Vista this year or in 2010.

In the Forrester report, Gray did not address the impact of the recent economic downturn and reports late last year that corporations would cut back on their 2009 IT spending plans .

Fifteen percent of respondents told Forrester last fall they planned to skip Vista for Windows 7, with another 28% reporting "no plans" or "don't know."

Despite increasing hints that Windows 7 may ship by this Christmas, Gray continues to peg its release for early 2010. As such, he advises companies worried about Microsoft cutting mainstream support for XP after April to upgrade to Vista now.

"Windows 7 will not be dramatically different from Windows Vista since it's built on the same code base to ensure greater application and hardware compatibility - rather it's an evolutionary update with more user-facing enhancements," he wrote. "The bottom line is if you are going to skip Windows Vista on some or all of your PCs, you will need to move very quickly to deploy Windows 7, particularly if you wait until Service Pack 1, as most enterprises do."

Mac OS X had a 3% share of corporate PCs, while Linux had 2%. Gray expects Apple's operating system to "maintain its niche business status," though "progressive organizations are flirting with desktop and application virtualization" to enable Mac usage, "and some are even experimenting with 'bring your own PC to work' programs" that also allow Macs, he wrote.

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