Vista retail launch fails to set the world alight

Vista retail launch fails to set the world alight

A month on from its retail launch, Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system is still being trumped by its predecessor, Windows XP, at a box builder level. But it is slowly forging its own identity in retail.

Local assemblers have been quick to point out customers still prefer systems built on XP, despite the availability of its successor to businesses since late last year. Plus Corporation managing director, Nigel Fernandes, said it was still turning out up to 70 per cent of its machines with XP on-board.

"January and February were both buoyant months sales-wise, but I'm really not sure how much it had to do with Vista as XP Pro still seems to be the OS of choice," he said.

Sydney-based assembler, Ocean Office Automation, is also shipping the majority of its new PCs with XP, vice-president, Alex Chen, said.

"Businesses take time to adapt to a new operating system. I've been surprised, however, with the Vista uptake from small business," he said.

Both builders pointed to driver compatibility issues with the 64-bit version of Vista as the main reason why users were avoiding making the switch. These tied in with common concerns such as maintaining current standard operating environments (SOE).

At a retail level, responses to Vista are mixed. Industry tracker, GfK, said 7000 copies were sold in stores in its first week, dropping away to about 1500 a week by the end of February.

XP sales were about 1000 copies per week before Vista launched and were now holding steady at about 500 per week. GfK analyst, Neville Ray, was unconcerned Vista retail sales were only slightly higher than its five year-old predecessor last month and said the new OS would be a slow burner.

"All-in-all, these figures hold nothing unexpected. It would have been more surprising if Vista had set the world alight," he said. "It just didn't have the weight of previous launches and that's probably because, like processors, operating systems have just become a commodity item. There's no real 'wow' for the consumer."

Dick Smith Electronics (DSE) managing director, Alvin Ng, said the retail figures only told half the story.

"The GfK data supports our outlook that Vista isn't just about sales of the software: it's also about notebooks that are getting sold with Vista on-board, or the components that are being upgraded," he said. Ng said Vista was currently performing slightly above DSE's expectations.

"Vista will prove to be a good medium-term interest builder and traffic driver," he said. "It's helping to lift our average sell price on hardware like faster PCs, graphics cards and external hard drives."

Microsoft director of small and mid-market solutions and partners, Pip Marlow, was happy with Vista's reception locally, and said it had surpassed the vendor's internal OEM, retail and reseller goals.

She said it was unsurprising XP was still selling well in some sectors and suggested the scenario would change over time. "It really depends on which market you're selling into," Marlow said. "Many companies have an SOE and will deploy and adopt technology at different rates. The small business adoption of Vista, meanwhile, has been great."

The EVO (Exchange, Vista and Office) section of Microsoft's partner portal was the most heavily used across the site in February, she said.

"There's a lot of vibrancy in the channel right now for Vista and the readiness work we did with partners getting skilled up has really paid off," she said.

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