Delaying Vista SP1 unlikely to hurt corporate uptake

Delay may have been driven by a desire to appease business customers

It might seem that Microsoft's decision to delay the availability of Windows Vista's first Service Pack for another six weeks due to driver problems is grounded in fear of further alienating consumers, who haven't exactly embraced the new operating system.

But Redmond's move may have been driven by a desire to appease a more important market -- business customers.

Companies typically fork out much more money per head to Microsoft than an individual consumer, through purchases of volume licenses, enterprise support contracts and Software Assurance.

As a result, they expect more.

"I would prefer Microsoft iron out the driver issues," said Sumeeth Evans, IT director for Collegiate Housing Services. The Indianapolis firm rolled out Vista to all 78 employees last year. "We are willing to wait for 6 weeks since most of our non-SP1 machines do perform pretty well."

Microsoft says that most of the drivers that break as a result of SP1 can be fixed by reinstalling them. That might be easy for an individual, but daunting to a company with scattered offices and hundreds or thousands of employees.

"It would be catastrophic for the future of Windows Vista if the Service Pack itself turned out to have major issues as well," said Lee Nicholls, global solutions director for Getronics, the Dutch corporate systems integrator.

If consumers have seemed slow to move to Vista, corporations have been even slower. That has as much to do with companies' satisfaction with XP as it does with their built-in conservatism.

SP1 remains a popular milestone, a signal of quality that can spur them to start an upgrade from Windows XP to Vista -- or merely the planning of one.

"We still won't see a huge boom in deployment right away, but it will at least spur plenty of companies into beginning their planning and adoption exercises," Nicholls said.

Pre-announcing SP1 thus helps spur corporations to start planning their Vista deployments. At the same time, a six-week delay in SP1's actual arrival won't matter to most companies.

IT consulting firm Avanade has been helping some large corporate clients plan for the Vista upgrade for about a year, according to Ryan McCune, a solutions director.

"In the big picture, this timing doesn't significantly affect our clients' deployment strategies or schedules," he said.

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