Windows Vista has certainly taken its lumps since Microsoft released the operating system in January 2007. Criticisms have included complex hardware requirements, slow performance, licensing restrictions and compatibility issues with both software applications and hardware when transitioning from Windows XP to Vista. Concerned about these issues, many small business owners adopted a wait-and-see attitude and chose to hold off on moving to Vista.
But XP's lifecycle is winding down; Microsoft stopped selling the operating system to PC makers and ended retail sales on June 30, 2008. And while Microsoft plans to provide mainstream support for Windows XP until April 2009 and extended support through April 2014, small business owners may not want to put off the transition much longer, which is why Microsoft today announced a program called Windows Vista Small Business Assurance.
The program, aimed at companies with fewer than 50 employees or with one-to-25 PCs, applies to customers who buy new PCs ‑ with either Windows Vista Business or Windows Vista Ultimate installed ‑ between July 1 and Sept. 30. The program, which runs through October, provides free technical support, tools and coaching to help business owners get the most out of Vista.
The company said that the Windows Vista Small Business Assurance program is part of its broader mission to give small businesses the resources and tools they need to successfully manage their businesses.
Microsoft sees the transition challenge as a perception issue. "Small businesses that currently use Vista are three times more positive about the operating system than small businesses that have not yet made the transition," Greg Amrofell, a small business product manager for Microsoft, said referring to an internal study. "SMBs that don't use Vista have misconceptions," he said. "We have our work cut out for us."
Amrofell said that the overall idea behind the Windows Vista Small Business Assurance program is, "Try it, you'll like it." He added, "If you run into issues, visit the site. You'll find tools, information and a free support hotline staffed with people trained to support the needs of small businesses."
That free technical support includes:
- One-on-one coaching (example: which features are most relevant to your business)
- Compatibility assistance for software applications and peripherals
- Information on key Vista features
- Hardware configuration (example: network and printers)
- General troubleshooting
Compatibility is a big concern for many small business owners and one that Microsoft hears about the most when it comes to Vista. Amrofell said the number of compatible hardware devices number 77,000.
"Twice as many devices support Vista today as when it first launched. And 99 percent of the top software applications are compatible, including apps like QuickBooks, Act, Sage, AutoDesk and all the leading anti-virus applications," said Amrofell. "This is all about helping small businesses make the transition to Vista with confidence."
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com