Microsoft did release some tools and services to help customers migrate to the newest client operating system. Among them was a Virtual Hard Disk Test Drive Program for Vista Enterprise Edition and the Data Encryption Toolkit for Mobile PCs.
The first tool gives IT managers a 30-day evaluation of the Vista Enterprise Edition so they can more quickly create a way to test partner software compatibility. The second tool gives some guidance on how IT shops can better protect their mobile data.
The company also said it is offering support for its SoftGrid Application Virtualization for those users who have Software Assurance maintenance agreements as part of their Enterprise licensing contracts.
Windows Vista was released Nov. 30, and many IT managers at TechEd said they had at least some Windows Vista clients already in their shops. But in terms of wide-scale deployments, no one expressed interest before 2008 or until they are ready for Windows Server 2008. The new server software is due out at the end of this year.
IT managers' reasons for not deploying Windows Vista are not surprising. For most, it requires waiting for a refresh of hardware. "We won't upgrade until we get a bunch of new laptops," said Dwayne Vidi, a network analyst at UF Corp., the University of Florida alumni foundation. "I see us rolling out [Microsoft] Office 2007 first."
One IT manager at Chiquita Brands in Cincinnati said his company was still finishing up its corporate-wide installation of Windows XP. "Some of our remote offices still use [Windows] 2000," said Mark McKinstry, a senior assistant analyst at the food distributor.
Making Windows Vista work with legacy applications
Other customers are testing Vista but have trouble making it work with all of their legacy applications. "We have no plans to deploy Vista in the next 12 months," said Clarence Washington, a systems administrator with Devon Energy Corp. in Oklahoma City.
Washington said his company is finding compatibility problems with its line-of-business applications and with some of its peripheral devices, such as printers.
Microsoft has been touting the operating system's security advantages over its previous versions. At TechEd, Shanen Boettcher, general manager in Microsoft's Windows Vista group, reiterated several of the OS's selling points that are aimed at IT shops.
Security is still the stalwart to Windows Vista's value, he said. Among other things, "it's the first OS to go through Trustworthy Computing; [and] it saw four vulnerabilities in the first 90 days -- which is about one-fourth fewer than with XP," he said.
It's also better suited to laptop users because of the improved mobile security, he said.
Loads of memory needed for Windows Vista
Some IT managers expressed concern over the intense amount of memory needed to run Windows Vista. Boettcher said in the Vista premium ready designation, a client needs 1 GB of RAM. For those who don't have as much, there is a feature called Support Ready Boost that lets a customer expand main memory size by plugging in a USB key to extend the RAM.
"We see lots of customers deploying in the Vista Classic mode," he said. "You still get all the value of the security and mobile features. You just lose some of the transparency features."
In terms of the corporate upgrade process, times have changed, Boettcher said. Today, instead of forklift upgrades, corporate IT managers look to upgrade different segments of their customer base. "They are targeting those core areas where it can deliver immediate value," he said.
Boettcher said he believes the thinking around IT budgeting has changed. A lot of budgets are now sitting inside of business units. Compliance regulations are also driving decisions about which parts of a corporation will be upgraded first.
"There are some clear areas where IT needs to assert control over the data," Boettcher said.
Peter Bochner and Dana Brundage contributed to this article.