Is Vista dead in the water?

Analysts from Gartner said earlier this week that Windows is collapsing under its own weight. Talk in the blogosphere keeps pointing to a Windows 7 release date earlier than 2010. Is Vista already a lame duck?

ANALYSIS Certainly Microsoft wants to avoid another debacle on the scale of Windows Me, an operating system release that tilted more toward a mistake than an upgrade, and whose publicity turned into pushback from both customers and the press.

However, two analysts from Gartner certainly didn't help Vista much with their comments earlier this week. At an Emerging Trends conference in Las Vegas, Michael Silver and Neil MacDonald argued that Microsoft is collapsing under its own weight, and that Windows has become monolithic.

Central to their point was the fact that Microsoft is leery to cut the cord, so to speak, on more than two decades of applications. Backwards compatibility remains something of an expectation with each new Windows release.

At the same time, this support for the past has gotten them into trouble. "Security should have been enough of a reason for Microsoft to stop bringing these applications forward," Directions on Microsoft analyst Michael Cherry told BetaNews.

As MacDonald and Silver argued, the ballooning hardware requirements attached to Microsoft's recent releases -- especially Vista -- have some of its clients wondering if it's just more worthwhile to stick with their current setups and wait for the next version of Windows.

"I found [their analysis] very interesting," Cherry said of the Gartner pair. "Look at all the hardware requirements [Microsoft] has gotten into."

The reasoning behind the leeriness over Vista in the enterprise is this: Evidence suggests that Windows 7 would be more modular, and as a result, a lot less hardware requirement-heavy.

Many groups -- Gartner included -- have now seemingly begun to advise clients that a Vista could be more than just a software upgrade: It could mean these folks could be buying new hardware too.

While this is certainly something the computer manufacturers would not mind at all, it's a sticking point for corporations. Faced with buying new machines, they would much rather just stick with XP, which for many is working out just fine.

Thus, in the case of Gartner -- which, by the way, had been urging its clients to upgrade as soon as possible after Vista launched in 2007 -- movement to Vista is now only being suggested as old and dying computers are being phased out. Only then, the firm believes, should Vista be introduced.

Could this movement of both sentiment and support away from Vista be the catalyst for recent suggestions that Windows 7 should launch sooner than the oft-publicized early 2010 target date?

It could be the most logical reason suggested thus far. Microsoft's customers appear ready to pass over Vista, and the company could be taking notice. If it cannot get its customers to bite on the latest Windows release, maybe it can on the next.

Next: Microsoft resurrects the old carrot-and-stick approach...

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