In the first year of its release, Microsoft is expecting businesses to adopt Windows Vista twice as fast as any other version of Windows, with 10 times as many Vista business seats deployed at launch than any previous release of the OS.

Vista will be successful because it has made a concerted effort to give customers the tools and training they need to adopt Vista across their businesses, said Brad Goldberg, general manager of the Windows Client Business Group at Microsoft.

For the previous Windows migration, to Windows XP, Microsoft didn't release important tools to help businesses upgrade – such as a compatibility toolkit to ensure existing applications will work – until Service Pack 1, which was released nine months after Windows XP shipped, he said. However, with Windows Vista, "we made the beta of the [compatibility] toolkit available with Windows Vista Beta 2," Goldberg said.

Microsoft also has opened up test versions of the new OS to a wide audience, making Release Candidate 1 (RC1) available to the public. Microsoft expects that at least 5 million users will have access to Vista RC1, all of whom the company has encouraged to provide feedback about the release before it goes out to business customers in November.

Another reason Microsoft expects businesses to warm to Vista early is that the company is doing its share to educate customers on how much money they can save by adopting it, Goldberg said.

Al Gillen, an IDC analyst, does not dispute Microsoft’s calculations for the return on investment (ROI) companies will make on Windows Vista, though he says that companies “don’t get the ‘R’ unless they put in the ‘I’ first.”

“The ROI story is exciting, but it requires that customers be mature and agile enough to do what they need to do afterwards,” Gillen said.

And while Microsoft may meet its ambitious first-year goals for Vista, that momentum will likely peter out, once pent-up demand has been met, Gillen said.

“Eighteen months out, the adoption curve will look like any other Windows product,” Gillen said. “It’s hard to move corporate customers faster than they are willing to go.”

Despite this optimism, analysts still don't expect businesses to begin adopting Vista in earnest until late 2007 or even 2008. And most current third-party customer surveys don’t reflect Microsoft’s optimism, such as one online survey of 314 IT professionals conducted by Computerworld in August.

Just 17% of IT professionals say they are considering rolling out Windows Vista in the first year. Forty-one percent of respondents said they had no plans to roll out Vista, while 35% said they would begin testing Vista only after it ships.

Of those who said they were considering rolling out Vista in the near or long-term, the largest group (29%) said the cost was the biggest determinant of if, and when, they would upgrade. That was followed by the hardware requirements (16%), the amount of employee training (6%) and the amount of IT staff retraining (4%).