Despite some positive response to its new operating system from the retail sector, Microsoft is "playing a dangerous game" with Vista, according to one of South Africa's leading IT executives.
Pierre Spies, CEO of the country's largest distributor – Tarsus Technologies – says that the negative response to Vista from almost all corners of the globe has forced multiple challenges on vendors, distributors and resellers who were betting on its success.
"Broadly speaking, there are three problems with Vista," Spies says. "Firstly, the market was not happy with the delay Microsoft experienced in the shipping of the operating system. Secondly, consumers do not like the fact that the final shipping product is still relatively incomplete. And, thirdly, the operating system is extremely resource-hungry – much more so than one would expect from a major operating system overhaul."
Spies says that these problems have led to a slower than anticipated uptake of the product in the business market.
"Furthermore, those companies that have taken the decision and upgraded to the product have been sorely disappointed," he says. "In fact, the vast majority have downgraded."
In downgrading, however, Spies says that customers have experienced additional challenges. "At the moment, you can only downgrade the Vista 'Business' SKU to Windows XP Professional – all other versions of the product are not eligible for downgrades," he says. "This has meant additional cost for most companies taking the downgrade route."
He adds that Tarsus has also faced its fair share of issues in negotiating the downgrade process.
"One of the services we offer our customers," Spies explains, "centres on blasting software images across multiple computers, thereby cutting down on rollout times.
"Vista, however, won't go quietly," he says. "It seems to embed itself on the computer we're trying to downgrade and makes it virtually impossible to do bulk downgrades. This has challenged our automated process and we've had to resort to manually downgrading each machine with a technician's dedicated attention. We have even had to significantly increase the staff complement in our configuration centre to accommodate this increased demand."
While the business market in general is not at all charmed with Vista, Spies says it's not all doom and gloom.
"The retail response has been extremely positive and unlike the approach that's been taken by many vendors in the corporate space, retail-focused vendors have ensured that their computers have sufficient resources," he says. "This has meant that the performance level of Vista machines in the retail sector has been far better than in the corporate space."
Despite the positive response in retail, however, Spies believes that Microsoft is playing a dangerous game.
"There's a great deal of uncertainty in the market right now and it's not a good idea to have users doubting your product around the time you release a new operating system," Spies says. "That uncertainty could force customers to begin exploring Open Source options again.
"While Open Source may not necessarily be their chosen route, they will be exposed to new and interesting options on the other side of the fence – and if they like what they see, Microsoft may begin losing customers," Spies says.