Survey: Half of American Business PCs Can't Run Windows Vista

About half of the average business PCs in North America are unable to meet the minimum requirements for Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system, while 94 percent do not meet the system requirements for Vista Premium.

Within these figures, 41 percent and 78 percent, respectively, require RAM upgrades to meet the minimum and premium system requirements of Vista, says a new study by Softchoice Research, which is expected to be released later this week.

By comparison, when Windows XP was released, some 71 percent of the PCs met its system requirements, Softchoice services consultant Dean Williams said in an executive summary of the report.

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"At the time of release 71 percent of the PCs met the system requirements for Windows XP, whereas only 50 percent of the PCs included in this study meet the minimum requirements to run Windows Vista. This difference suggests that jump in system requirements to run Vista presents a significant barrier to adoption," he said.

The inventory data used in the study represents a total of 112,113 desktops from 472 North American organizations in the financial, health-care, technology, education and manufacturing sectors.

Twelve percent of the PCs surveyed will require CPU replacements to run Vista in its minimum configuration, while 16 percent will require CPU replacements to run Vista in its premium configuration, William said.

Vista's minimum CPU requirements have increased 243 percent from those of Windows XP, which in turn had a much smaller increase of 75 percent from Windows 2000's CPU requirements.

"Ultimately, the rate at which the average business CPU's MHz rating is increasing has not kept pace with Vista: The CPU requirements for Vista have increased 243 percent from those of Windows XP, whereas the speed of the average business PC's CPU has only increased by 215 percent over roughly the same time period," Williams said.

Williams attributes the poor state of hardware readiness among North American companies to the sharp increase in the hardware resources required to run Vista; the fact that many organizations are maintaining longer hardware refresh cycles, where they support PCs for more than five years; and a lack of easy access to the PC inventory information needed to implement an effective life-cycle management process.

"Most organizations planning to deploy Vista within the next two years will have a PC life cycle that is affected by these factors, which, taken together, present a significant operational and financial stumbling block if not planned for well ahead of time," he said.

Preliminary user surveys suggest that 27 percent of organizations are planning to wait one to two years before undertaking a Vista rollout, with some 33 percent planning to wait between six months and one year.

"While these findings suggest that many organizations are considering a longer-term deployment schedule, the hardware purchasing decisions made today will undoubtedly impact the viability of a Vista rollout in the coming years," Williams said.

Microsoft estimates that 20 percent of PCs will be running Vista within the first year of its release, double the rate at which XP was adopted in the first year it was made available to the market, he said.

But Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who headlined the business launch of Vista, Office 2007 and Exchange 2007 at an event at the NASDAQ stock exchange late last week, is upbeat about the products and said customers will buy them.

In an interview with eWEEK after the event, Ballmer acknowledged that most people will upgrade when they replace their hardware, but he also predicted that some will accelerate their hardware upgrade cycle.

Ballmer also sent out an executive e-mail to customers last week in which he acknowledged that with the "dramatic" changes to the user experience — from the new Vista Aero interface to the new Ribbon in the 2007 Office system — "comes more than a little risk."

"After all, these are some of the best-known and most-used products on the planet. Windows powers 845 million computers. Office is used by more than 450 million people. Any thoughtful businessperson would think twice before tinkering with the products that people use every day to manage their work and run their businesses," he said.

"So why are we making these changes? And why should you risk disrupting your business to take advantage of these new features and capabilities?" he questioned.

The answer: because business has changed and new tools are required. No one questions the competitive advantages that come from the ability to communicate and collaborate instantly with colleagues and customers around the world. No one doubts that businesses benefit from access to nearly limitless information about customers, competitors, and markets, Ballmer said.

"But, at the same time, no one labors under the illusion that business is any easier as a result. In today's global economy, where customers can find the best price without leaving their desks, competitive advantage can come and go in the blink of an eye," he said.

Microsoft is also poised to introduce over the next year new innovations such as unified communications, including VOIP (voice over IP), and performance management that utilizes cutting-edge analytics and business intelligence, which would enable businesses to achieve new levels of value from their information technology investments, Ballmer said.

"Over the course of the next decade, we expect that Windows Vista, the 2007 Office system and Exchange Server 2007 will be used by well beyond 1 billion people. ... The future of business computing begins today — we look forward to the new ideas, the new businesses and the new innovations that will result," he said.

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