Major US companies are only now starting to deploy 32-bit Microsoft operating systems, almost two years after the release of Windows 95 and four years after NT first shipped.
According to a new report by Forrester Research, only 23% of Fortune 1000 companies are running a 32-bit version of Windows. Of those, just 10% are using NT 4.0, which Microsoft positions as the primary operating system for corporate desktops. The majority of Fortune 1000 companies (67%) are still using 16-bit Windows 3.x.
The survey is based on interviews with 51 IT executives from Fortune 1000 companies, responsible for more than 1.1 million desktops and laptops.
Despite the apparent slow uptake of NT and Windows 95, Forrester believes the situation is changing because of an increase in the number of applications now demanding a 32-bit operating environment.
According to the survey, 68% of respondents said the need to run 32-bit applications meant they would be moving to 32-bit Windows.
Forrester predicts that within two years, 32-bit Windows will be installed on 93% of all corporate PCs in the US, with Windows 3.x's share dwindling to just 3%.
Tom Rhinelander, the report's author, blamed the slow uptake on "conflicting" messages from Microsoft. "The sales story you get (from Microsoft) depends on who you talk to and when you talk to them," claimed Rhinelander.
According to Forrester's research, 35% of users admit to not understanding Microsoft's operating systems message.
However, Microsoft denied its OS strategy was confused. Nick McGrath, the company's Windows NT Workstation product manager, said: "If a customer is looking at the easiest way to get to a 32-bit desktop, or they have legacy software and hardware, they need to look at Windows 95. If, on the other hand, they want a more scalable and secure system, then they should go with NT Workstation."
The findings are part of a report, called The Last Windows Upgrade, which also assesses the cost and possible benefits of migrating to NT and Windows 95.
It is taking a long time for 32-bit Windows to become the norm. For the last four years, Microsoft has been preaching the benefits of 32-bit computing, with its ability to run larger applications and achieve better performance.
Yet, if Forrester is correct, large companies are simply not buying this message. They want stability, while Microsoft forges ahead: Memphis, NT 5, 64-bits. This is ironic given that corporate users are still on 16-bit Windows, and only now starting to migrate to Windows NT and 95. Microsoft needs to slow down.
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