Executive Summary: Upgrading computer operating systems (OSs) has to make business sense, and many companies find too many problems with Microsoft's Windows Vista to make it worthwhile. Vista usually requires expensive hardware upgrades if not new hardware, and legacy applications generally need to be upgraded and in some cases simply won't work. Training costs, excessive boot times, and laptop performance problems all contribute to a limited payoff in productivity when upgrading to Vista.

With a weak economy, businesses need to do more with less. When it comes time to consider upgrading a Windows XP environment to Windows Vista, many companies are choosing not to. Ultimately, upgrading has to make business sense, and many companies find the cost to upgrade outweighs any benefits they receive. Here are my top 10 reasons why companies are staying away from Vista.

1. Vista requires new hardware or significant hardware upgrades. To get acceptable performance on Vista, you’re probably looking at significant hardware upgrades, if not a new computer. In my work environment, we’ve found the minimum requirement for a Vista desktop is 2GB of memory, a dualcore processor, 80GB hard disk drive, and a video card with at least 256MB of VRAM. For most users, these specs mean getting a new computer because upgrading an existing system isn’t cost effective.

2. The additional cost of additional upgrades. There’s a good chance you’ll have to upgrade your applications as well. Unless you’re running the latest version of your application, you’ll probably need to upgrade—or at the very least install a patch—for Vista compatibility. Application upgrades could cost thousands of dollars per desktop, depending on the number and type of applications your company’s running. Make sure you check for compatibility and upgrade problems before committing to upgrading your entire company.

3. Compatibility problems with applications. Even with the latest updates, you might still encounter compatibility problems with some applications. You might even be forced to change applications if the vendor doesn’t plan to support Vista. VPN clients, accounting applications, faxing applications, and some graphics programs have caused problems in my environment.

4. Training costs. With the upgrade from Windows 2000 to XP, users could pretty much figure things out on their own. With Vista, you might not be so lucky. Many programs and utilities have been moved in Vista, and your users might have a difficult time locating them. When I first started using Vista, I wanted to view my installed applications. I launched Control Panel and looked for Add/Remove Programs, but it wasn’t there. I eventually found the applet—renamed Programs and Features—but the search added to the frustration of getting up to speed with Vista.

5. Vista requires significant tweaks. Changes to User Account Control (UAC), local user rights, and application settings might be necessary to get your company’s applications to run on a Vista computer. Most of these settings can be controlled with Group Policy; however, finding which settings to change can be the real headache.

6. Boot times and the patch installation process. This is one of my pet peeves: Even with a fast computer, Vista is slow booting up. Vista SP1 has helped somewhat, but when I’m waiting for Vista to boot, all I can think about is how fast my machine would be if it were running XP. During some patch installations, Vista installs the patch, reboots, runs another process to complete the patch installation, then reboots again before you can use your computer. I always seem to get hit with the double-boot patch installation at the beginning of meetings, so everyone has to wait while my machine completes the patch process before I can show my PowerPoint presentation.

7. Laptop performance problems. Properly configured, the current generation of desktop computers generally has acceptable performance running Vista. However, if you have a laptop—especially a subnotebook— you could encounter performance problems. You might need to disable some of the features on Vista, such as Aero, to obtain acceptable performance.

8. Windows XP works well. XP is stable, and it’s more compatible with existing applications than Vista. Vista is arguably more secure, but some of the security features, such as UAC, can be so irritating that companies end up disabling them. XP isn’t perfect, but it still works acceptably for most users, so many companies are hesitant to purchase an upgrade.

9. Limited payoff in productivity. Most people don’t mind going through a learning curve if there’s a significant payoff. Vista has some nice features; however, in my organization, we haven’t experienced a big productivity payoff after getting up to speed with it. In contrast, there’s a significant learning curve with Microsoft Office 2007 because of the changes to the UI. But after getting up to speed with Office 2007, I can honestly say that I create documents faster and more easily than before. I haven’t experienced any similar benefit with Vista. At the end of the day, upgrading has to make business sense.

10. Windows 7 isn’t far away! In my opinion, Microsoft realized it missed the mark with Vista and is now scrambling to get the next release of Windows out. I think many companies are waiting to see the new features in Windows 7, currently scheduled to release in 2010, and might just skip Vista altogether. Vista is looking more and more to me like Windows Me all over again.