Microsoft has already made its case for consumer adoption of Vista. Now, it's aiming its PR offensive at business customers.
The company on Wednesday released a white paper paper targeted at the many businesses that have chosen to stick with Windows XP instead of moving to Vista. Microsoft argues that Vista is more secure, reliable, and can save companies money when it comes to management and deployment.
"We have tried to close gaps for consumers, and we're doing the same for enterprises," Mike Nash, vice president of Windows Client Product Management at Microsoft, told CNET News.com.
Why should businesses deploy now? Nash says the release of Vista Service Pack 1 has improved Windows security, improved driver support, and minimized application compatibility issues, for starters.
Compared with Windows XP, Vista has had fewer vulnerabilities (45 for Vista versus 56 for XP); fewer critical vulnerabilities (17 as opposed to 35); and 60 percent fewer malicious software infections than XP SP2, Nash said.
The big bonus for companies may come in cost savings versus XP when it comes to deployment and management of Vista across multiple machines, Nash said.
Tom Norton, the worldwide Microsoft services practice lead for Hewlett-Packard, said that a majority of HP's top 500 customers globally "are looking at this (Vista) as a way to save money on support of client environments."
As for application compatibility, the move from Internet Explorer 6 to Internet Explorer 7 was more traumatic than the Windows upgrade, said Norton.
Still, despite the statistics and reassurances, initial impressions tend to last. And the initial Vista experience for many people was less than stellar, a point which Microsoft concedes. Nash says that, yes, the company made a lot of changes with Vista that have taken time for customers to get used to, and initial driver and application support was lacking. But, "there is a huge gap between what is possible with Vista and the perception that is out there," he said.
Nash, who will soon celebrate his 17th anniversary with Microsoft, said that he has seen similar customer trepidation in the past when it comes to new Windows releases. "There has always been a version of Windows that is new that people don't know what to do with; there has always been the incumbent version; and there is always a new version on the horizon. It's not a new phenomenon," Nash said.
This time around, the X factor is Windows 7. Microsoft has said precious little about the planned Windows release, except that it will come in 2009 and will include a touch interface. Still, with companies just getting around to Vista deployment, does it make sense to wait for 7?
"I have heard that with every release (of Windows)," Nash said. "What I will say: back when I worked on security at Microsoft, a lot of customers said they would never deploy XP. Initially they were waiting for better security, then they were waiting for XP SP2. Then they were waiting for Longhorn (the code name used during Vista's development)."
Microsoft's message to customers is that Vista introduced a fair amount of new code in the operating system kernel and in device-level software. Sure, it's been a rough transition from XP to Vista. But Vista and Windows 7 will be largely compatible in those areas, according to the white paper release on Wednesday, meaning that customers will eventually need to bite the bullet and make the switch.
"There is always some level of evaluation that customers will want to go through. Five minutes for some; 12 to 18 months for others. The question is: what is the right time for you as a customer?" Nash said.