With reports suggesting it may up to five years for Windows Vista to hit 80 per cent penetration, field marketing agency Infinite takes to the streets of Glasgow to find out what retailers are saying?

Views on Vista

The Home Premium edition was the top selling version. Most thought the Home Basic version was overpriced; when comparing to Home Premium. Pricing and features of the first two versions forced consumers into buying the Home Premium edition. Stores agreed the Ultimate edition was a niche product, which most consumers ruled out purchasing – this was due to price.

Businesses have been slow to take up Vista. Confidence from this sector is low. This is due to having taken time getting used to Windows XP. This view was from stores who enjoyed regular business-to-business sales. National retailers sell all boxed PCs with Windows Vista pre-loaded. This didn’t give consumers opportunity to purchase machines with other versions. Businesses thought this was a problem and lacked choice. There were concerns over incompatibility issues towards IT infrastructures.

Programs such as Sage Accounting, Adobe Photoshop CS2, CAD packages, MS Office 2003 and drivers were listed as reasons business customers were unwilling to commit. PCs purchased from the Business Centre of PC World were offered both Windows XP & Vista options. Customers, who requested, were offered downgrades to XP. Staff commented; "nearly all of our business sales are sold with XP pre-loaded."

Staples struggled to accommodate business users. This was due to no Windows XP options, adding "an XP option would be a lifesaver." Independents enjoy less business sales, however, did receive some regular custom from small local businesses. They still supported the XP market. Laptops Direct noted; "All our business sales are XP units, however some have asked to trial Vista and then returned a couple of weeks later to request a downgrade to XP."

Opinion varies depending on store. PC World and Staples have received negative feedback. This seems to be a reflection of human nature, in that you are far more likely to raise negative issues than compliment positive ones. Comments were, "we feel bullied into providing a product that many don’t want" and "it’s not just business applications which have been an issue, programs like Quicktime, iTunes and anti-virus software, which customers use daily also have issues." It was conceded Vista provides equivalent software.

Other nationals, Currys and Comet, felt Vista was insignificant to PC business sales. Management considered it was the norm and warranted no further explanation. Comments included; "Customers look at one laptop at £699 and another at £899, both have Vista, the price ticket differentiates the two through the hardware specification and not the OS." Both retailers agreed customers don’t, in general, ask many questions about Vista. Staff noted that they spend more time demonstrating TVs than laptops, adding "our screensaver is never off the laptops."

Additional comments were: "Customers are less fussy and pre-dominantly less technical, they want a laptop to browse the Internet, look at photos and don’t care about how it’s done." The independent view was opposite. Consumers usually visit having already conducted research. This was apparent through comments of one store: "we have a more knowledgeable customer base."

Stores agreed Windows XP sales outweighed Windows Vista; this despite being priced the same. The retailer Speedy PC said: "XP sales outweigh Vista by at least 10:1." This was echoed by Laptops Direct used the Dell example. This manufacturer provides a choice of OS. Staff from Priceless Computing added, "it’s a matter of educating customers (on Vista); once they experience the benefits they won’t go back to XP."

It was thought the inclusion of Media Centre in Vista wouldn’t necessarily encourage users to explore new areas of computing adding; "most customers either don’t know it’s included nor have no intention of using it."

Security issues were still a priority of customers. Many noting that despite increased Vista security, "customers who were sceptical about online transactions would remain sceptical" and "most didn’t know the improvements existed; many of Vista’s features have been poorly marketed."

According to stores, most customers believed MS Office was already included in Vista and XP.

Our analysis showed 100 per cent of stores’ customers upgraded from Windows XP. Consumers and business users are familiar with this OS. It is assumed there are many consumers with older operating systems on their machines. Creative Computing noted, "Whilst many new games are Vista only, customers are being forced by the Direct X 3D engine requirements, this feature alone would increase sales."

Consumers purchasing from national stores, are mostly switching to Vista through new PCs, whether they like it or not; a fact which independents are taking advantage by providing XP solutions.

From visiting a small selection of retailers, our conclusion is that there needs to be another drive of product awareness and education focused towards consumers.

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