Microsoft's aggressive -- some might say desperate -- attempts to bolster holiday PC sales via promotions around Windows Vista are an interesting development, but don't necessarily foreshadow similar pushes with its channel partners in the enterprise space.
Microsoft is considering offering deep discounts or even free upgrades to Vista for consumers who buy "Vista-capable" systems during the Christmas shopping season. The move is seen largely as an olive branch to OEMs who count on the holiday rush to bolster annual sales and who have been none too happy about delays that have pushed the consumer editions of Vista into Q1 2007.
Of course, business editions of Vista are still slated for release this November, and most IT managers don't position PC refresh cycles as being part of a Christmas bonus plan, anyway.
Certainly, the projected slowdown in consumer sales -- Gartner is suggesting Vista's tardiness will cut worldwide shipments by more than 1 million units next year -- will put general pressure on Microsoft's channel partners, so expect some aggressive marketing behind Vista.
One market segment that might be most attractive for a "free upgrade" program is the backlog of high-end 32-bit systems -- Microsoft says Vista can run comfortably on such machines -- that may clog the channel as vendors get behind hip new 64-bit systems. Many 32-bit systems are already out there, pre-loaded with Windows XP, and an offer for a cheap bump to Vista would be compelling for budget-conscious shops.
For those enterprises eager to move to 64-bit, just waiting for systems to come pre-loaded with Vista is the logical choice. Redmond might be willing to pass on some licensing breaks to its OEM partners to get the ball rolling -- particularly with persistent rumors of a desktop Linux push -- but don't expect anything as overt as a coupon deal.