Almost a year and a half since its launch, Windows Vista may be ready to penetrate big business and win the hearts and minds of CIOs, according to some watchers.

Microsoft accepts that Vista has only penetrated about five per cent of large business accounts (and even that figure might be optimistic, according to some analysts) but a combination of hardware readiness, enhancements to Vista itself and application compatibility reasons could see the heavily criticised OS finally crack large accounts.

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At a roundtable session with media, John Curran, UK head of the Windows group at Microsoft, said, “Adoption is accelerating, especially now we’ve got SP1 out.”

Curran also defended Vista’s reputation, saying the product had passed 140 million licence sales and was “the fastest-selling OS in history. We’re seeing momentum whether it’s consumer, enterprise or public sector. Some of the [negative] sentiment is from people who tried Vista in the very early days and the fundamental experience is very different today than at launch.”

The stability of Vista SP1 will be a significant factor for many IT departments that have held off deployments, according to many experts.

Andy Wray, Microsoft practice lead at Hewlett-Packard, said that customer feedback suggested that “the majority of enterprise rollouts will be this year”.

Freeform Dynamics analyst Dale Vile said a lot of negativity surrounding Vista came from people who had not even tried the program, according to Freeform’s research polls.

At least two large organisations believe the time is right to be deploying Vista.

Tube Lines, which provides maintenance for trains and infrastructure on parts of the London Underground, is preparing a major rollout in September.

“When Vista launched it was slow and clunky but now it flies on a new laptop,” said Adrian Davey, head of IT. “In 2006, the hardware wasn’t ready but, applying Moore’s Law, the world is a different place. Four gigabytes of RAM and a 2.5GHz chip is standard.”

Davey also said that Tube Lines had made a purely business decision rather than falling for the hype surrounding the latest and greatest software.

“We’re very clear about performance and profit objectives so making a decision about Vista has to be business-led. We sometimes get hung up about Vista but it’s an operating system and it’s just a platform to run applications. We asked: how is this going to help me run my business. It’s about Office, SharePoint, Office Communications Server and Windows Server 2008. The stack is an Enterprise 2.0 solution. Shareholders don’t care about fluffy opinions; you have to give hard facts.”

Davey said that Vista could generate direct cost savings through manageability and application compatibility.

“More of our applications are compatible with Vista than XP SP2 – that’s a fact,” he said.

Newham Borough Council is another organisation that sees hard value in an imminent Vista deployment, thanks to having a centrally managed system that supports mobile working, security and power saving. Its tests suggest that an energy bill saving of £50 per desktop is possible through Vista’s power management tools.

Newham CIO Geoff Connell said Vista would help Newham meet carbon-efficiency mandates and back a plan to make 1,000 staff flexible workers. He added that the power-saving tools would ensure energy efficiency, even though Newham had tried to persuade users to shut down at the end of the day.

“We tried PR and communications and even left chocolates on desks but 1,200 people still weren’t doing it [leaving PCs powered up],” he said.

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