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Microsoft has dismissed analyst house Forrester Research's report on slow corporate adoption of Windows Vista as sensationalist and schizophrenic.

The reluctance of many enterprise-sized companies to upgrade their systems to Microsoft’s current OS was highlighted by Forrester analyst Thomas Mendel in his 23 July report.

Mendel surveyed 50,000 enterprise users and found that fewer than one in 11 of PCs being used in big firms runs Vista. Just over 87 per cent were still running Windows XP at the end of last month. That figure compared to a paltry 8.8 per cent for Vista, which has now been on the market for over 18 months.

He described Vista as being the “new Coke”, comparing Microsoft’s current OS to the soft drink that suffered a major marketing failure when it was first introduced in 1985. The fizzy pop multinational subsequently reverted to the original formula to help win back sales.

Mendel advised in his report that enterprises still considering their next OS move would be wise to “consider following the lead of Microsoft’s important partner Intel and re-evaluating the case of Vista”. Last month the chip giant rejected installing the new operating system on its many thousands of desktop PCs, saying it had "no compelling case" to do so.

He said customers should probably hang fire until Windows 7 (which increasingly looks to us like Vista mark two) to arrive.

Microsoft hit back at Mendel on Friday. “Not surprisingly, this is something that we, our millions of enterprise customers, and a bunch of pesky statistics don't agree with,” said MS wonk Chris Flores on the software firm’s Vista team blog. “Heck, even Forrester doesn't agree with Forrester!”

Not a sinking ship?

Redmond claimed to have sold 180 million Vista licenses to PC vendors and individuals so far. It reckoned Mendel missed an important point about how the enterprise OS adoption cycle was traditionally much slower than the consumer take-up. “Upgrading the PC in your living room is easy, but upgrading an entire front and back end infrastructure to thousands of users without downtime is much more complex, and that takes time,” said Flores.

He said Mendel’s survey contradicted an earlier Forrester report, penned by analyst Ben Gray, which outlined the five main reasons why enterprises should grasp the nettle and install Vista soon.

Interestingly, Flores interpreted that report (pdf) as meaning move to Vista “now”. But he failed to point out Gray’s endnote: "It’s not a huge surprise that just over half the enterprises we surveyed don’t yet have Windows Vista deployment plans. Others are simply taking a wait-and-see approach.”

Mendel’s report, a few months on, simply builds on evidence that shows that despite Microsoft’s release of service pack one for Vista, which came loaded with 77,000 drivers, businesses remain reluctant to upgrade.

Microsoft unsurprisingly disagreed with that analysis. Flores insisted: “There are thousands of enterprise customers deploying Windows Vista by the thousands of seats on a weekly basis, including heavy hitters like The United States Air Force, PPG Industries, and Cerner.”

He concluded that Forrester’s latest research makes “sensationalist statements” about Vista and asks the question: “How is this useful guidance to customers?”

Meanwhile, Microsoft IT pro evangelist James O'Neill yesterday described the initial launch of Vista in late 2006 as having suffered a "'Terminal 5' experience". ®

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