CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Like it or not, as Windows Vista becomes a staple in the computer market, companies are going to have to begin transitioning from older operating systems, such as XP, to the newer operating system.
That's according to a Forrester Research analyst, Benjamin Gray, who said that despite the negative public reaction to Vista, its adoption is now being planned by many companies by the end of this year and early next.
And in a pair of new reports, Gray argued that organizations should go ahead and plan to make the move sooner rather than later, for a number of reasons, despite well-publicized complaints of hoggish computing resources demands, sluggish speed and integration issues.
For one, there are no alternatives for large enterprises. According to a Forrester survey, 99% of North American and European enterprises use Microsoft operating systems, a number that only shrinks to 97% for small to medium businesses, the category in which most credit unions fall, and Microsoft appears ready to orphan XP sooner or later.
Plus, improvements are being made.
"Adoption for Windows Vista has been slow," Gray said. "But now that Service Pack 1 is available, we're starting to see businesses get serious about deploying Windows Vista companywide."
And Microsoft is now saying that it will allow Windows 2000 to enter the support phase in June of this year and quit selling new installs of XP next April.
Meanwhile, Vista's successor, Windows 7, is scheduled for release in early 2010, too far out for a lot of enterprises to wait, Gray said, adding that uncertainty remains great for what that new platform will contain, as well.
"It's also going to support both 32- and 64-bit computing," said Gray. "Beyond these tidbits, everything else is pure rumor and speculation."
He said that those still concerned about early problems with Vista can be relieved that many reliability, security and other concerns have been alleviated, and users now have more control over software installation and other administrative duties.
That said, he also noted that adoption of Vista has been slow, making it difficult for companies to learn from their predecessors. But that's changing as more and more enterprise users are sharing issues, the majority of which deal with compatibility, Gray said.
Vista also is becoming a reality as huge numbers of new PCs come pre-loaded with the operating system.
Therefore, "Forrester recommends that companies approach their OS migration and upcoming PC refresh cycle as one consolidated project," said Gray.
He also noted that many of the problems with major third-party applications from vendors such as Symantec, McAfee and Adobe have been rectified, and that more than 2,300 applications have been certified for Vista.
He recommended that Microsoft's free hardware assessment tool be used to ensure compatibility. However, upgrading older machines is not cost-effective and should be reconsidered. Gray suggested instead using client virtualization as a temporary fix.
The Forrester report noted that many users have relied on Microsoft's Application Compatibility Toolkit and client management suites to identify compatibility issues. When it becomes apparent that a particular application would not be certified and replacement is not an option, local desktop virtualization is a viable option. It allows users to run older applications in a virtual Windows XP or Windows 2000.
"This allows users to access a virtual Windows Vista environment--apps included--on hardware that couldn't otherwise process it locally," Gray said.
If virtualization is not an appealing option, it is possible to rework software developed in-house. The Forrester report said many obstacles that Vista originally placed in front of those trying to do even basic tasks have been alleviated by Microsoft raising administrator powers in nonadministrative accounts, so employees have more power; although custom applications remain a challenge on Vista.