If the launch date of Windows Vista gets pushed back any farther, Windows 2000 users will face an increasingly difficult decision, a research analyst said Thursday: rush Vista into production or fall back on the already-outdated Windows XP.
"It's going to be quite tricky for Windows 2000 users," said Annette Jump, a principal analyst with Gartner. The problem, she said, is the shrinking window between the time when Vista's unveiled and Windows 2000 paid support ends.
With the former now set as November 2006 for businesses and the latter halted in July 2010, it may seem that there's plenty of time for businesses to shift, but that's not necessarily the case, said Jump.
"Even if Vista releases in November to enterprises, we don't believe any businesses will migrate in Q1 2007. Even the technology leaders [who will move to Vista first] will need 60 to 90 days to test."
Mainstream deployment of Vista, she said, won't take place for at least 12 to 18 months after the OS's release, which puts it into the middle of 2008.
"By the end of 2007, we expect Vista to have an installed base of only 7.2 percent of all business PCs. By the end of 2008, it should be at 25.1 percent."
Jump's numbers, of course, assume that Microsoft releases Vista on the now-delayed timetable it made public in March.
Gartner, however, is now predicting that Microsoft won't deliver Vista in November, but will have to delay the launch until the second quarter of 2007.
"The [earlier] delay of Vista, and now one deeper into 2007, won't help Windows 2000 users," said Jump. "If Vista slips much more, it's all that closer to when 2000 support ends."
Windows 2000 is already in what Microsoft calls "extended" support -- primary support ended in June 2005 -- which provides critical security fixes and paid support, but no free support other than what's available online.
By Jump's calculation, if Vista doesn't release until mid-2007, then most companies wouldn't be able to migrate from an older operating system to Vista until around the end of 2008 or early 2009.
"Vista delays, especially one into the middle of 2007, puts Windows 2000 users in a much more difficult position than they had six months ago," Jump said.
Enterprises still using Windows 2000 have another option, of course: migrate now to Windows XP.
"Some were thinking about skipping XP entirely, and moving straight to Vista," said Jump. "But now that will be tricky. We're now generally recommending that they take up XP as soon as possible."
Even that decision, however, comes with potential problems, since Microsoft's current stance is that Windows XP's "mainstream" support will end two years after Vista's introduced. That means companies which migrate now to XP would have to upgrade to Vista some time during 2009 in order to beat the introduction of limited extended support for XP.
Either way, Windows 2000 users have a tough decision to make. And Microsoft's not likely to help them out, Jump said, by extending Windows 2000's paid support, as it did in 2004 for Windows 98.
"I don't think Microsoft will do that," said Jump. "They've been trying to move users from Windows 2000 for a long time."