Microsoft is playing a dangerous game with Vista, says Tarsus chief in South Africa


Microsoft's release of Windows Vista earlier this year caused somewhat of a stir in the market, receiving an overly critical response to its newest operating system from literally every corner of the globe.

Pierre Spies, CEO of the largest technology distributor in South Africa, Tarsus Technologies says that this negative response has caused numerous challenges for vendors, distributors and resellers that were betting on the product's success.

"Broadly speaking, there are three problems with Vista," Spies says.

"Firstly, the market was not happy with the delay Microsoft experienced in the shipping of the operating system. Secondly, consumers do not like the fact that the final shipping product is still relatively incomplete.

"Thirdly, the operating system is extremely resource-hungry - much more than one would expect from a major operating system overhaul," Spies says.

Spies says that these problems have led to a slower than anticipated uptake of the product in the business market.

"Furthermore, those companies that have taken the decision and upgraded to the product have been sorely disappointed," he says. "In fact the vast majority have downgraded."

In downgrading, however, Spies says that customers have experienced additional challenges. "At the moment, you can only downgrade the Vista 'Business' SKU to Windows XP Professional - all other versions of the product are not eligible for downgrades," he says.

"This has meant additional cost for most companies taking the downgrade route."

Tarsus has also faced its fair share of issues in negotiating the downgrade process.

"One of the services we offer our customers," Spies explains, "centres on blasting software images across multiple computers, thereby cutting down on rollout times.

"Vista, however, won't go quietly," he chuckles. "It seems to embed itself on the computer we're trying to downgrade and makes it virtually impossible to do bulk downgrades.

"This has challenged our automated process and we've had to resort to manually downgrading each machine with a technician's dedicated attention. We have even had to significantly increase the staff complement in our configuration centre to accommodate this increased demand," he says.

While the business market in general is not at all charmed with Vista, Spies says it's not doom and gloom across the whole market.

"The retail response has been extremely positive," he adds, "and unlike the approach that's been taken by many vendors in the corporate space, retail focused vendors have ensured that their computers have sufficient resources.

"This has meant that the performance level of Vista machines in the retail sector has been far better than in the corporate space."

Despite the positive response in retail, however, Spies believes that Microsoft is playing a dangerous game.

"There's a great deal of uncertainty in the market right now and it's not a good idea to have users doubting your product around the time you release a new operating system," Spies says.

"That uncertainty could urge customers to begin exploring their open source options again.

"While open source may not necessarily be their chosen route, they will be exposed to new and interesting options on the other side of the fence - and if they like what they see, Microsoft may begin losing customers," he concludes.