Windows Vista, The Windows Me of our Generation

Last night I was recording a podcast with fellow blogger Alan Shimel where we were discussing the topic of whether Windows XP retail users and business organizations would upgrade to Windows 7. Lots of questions came up about Vista and what would become of it. Now that a Windows 7 released product seems right around the corner (relatively speaking), will organizations even consider moving to Vista or will they leapfrog and go right from XP to W7? If Windows 7 is as successful and many of us think, will we see much Vista around for very long? Will Vista users immediately upgrade to Windows 7? And ultimately will Vista fade away as a Windows OS release we forget about? And just how big of an albatross will Vista be for Microsoft once the market's moved on. All good and interesting questions.

I would love to see some real numbers about the propensity of users to upgrade to a new Windows OS, but I suspect Vista will be around with us for some time because of those users who don't and won't upgrade their OS for any reason. Their upgrade would come in the form of upgrading when they buy their next computer. Users like my mom would only upgrade if my brother or I upgraded her computer for her or when she buys her next computer. I suspect this part of the market is more sizable than early adopters like myself give credit.

But I also believe a sizable chuck of the Vista population will be motivated to move to Windows 7 to get the stability, performance and usability benefits. Even though Steve Ballmer wants customers to upgrade to either Vista or Windows 7, i.e. "just upgrade", most organizations will hold off any move to Vista and wait to make sure Windows 7 is ready, avoiding the Vista stepping stone path to Windows 7. A great deal of this depends too on how painful Microsoft makes it for organizations to just stay on XP and not move until all other options have been exhausted. I suspect that's one of the big reasons behind such an open beta for Windows 7 and Microsoft's efforts to make sure Windows 7 was really stable before bringing it out in beta. Trying out a a very solid Windows 7 beta lets organizations kick the tires much earlier in the process, see that Windows 7 is much farther along in its maturity than other Windows releases, and hopefully accelerate adoption upon release.

So back to our question; where will all this leave Vista? In some respects Vista will be the Windows Me of this decade, just on a much larger scale. Remember Windows Me? What was the purpose of it besides some gadget and icon upgrades? I have a hard time recalling now. Seriously. Any Windows Me momentum was quickly usurped by Windows XP, leaving very few users who bought Windows ME or stayed with it after upgrading. It's long gone out of sight from our rearview mirror and pretty much forgotten these days.

Vista obviously has been around a lot longer and in much more widespread use than Windows Me, but I suspect Vista will similarly become one those "you haven't upgraded yet?" Windows OSs. It may just take a lot longer for that to happen. Whether deserved or not, Vista is a chapter in Microsoft's and our history we'd most like to rewrite. Windows 7 will largely let all of us do that except for those who will continue to use Vista's troubled history to bash Microsoft about the head and shoulders. But even that will fade over time. 

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