Microsoft users slow in following Windows migration

Two years after Microsoft released Windows 95, almost half of Windows users still run its venerable predecessor, Windows 3.x. Meanwhile, user interest in Windows 98 has been muted compared with the frenzy over Windows 95. And analysts said the migration to Windows NT, at least on the desktop, is sluggish. The result: a hodgepodge of old and new versions of the Windows operating system on corporate America's desktops next year.

Two years after Microsoft released Windows 95, almost half of Windows users still run its venerable predecessor, Windows 3.x.

Meanwhile, user interest in Windows 98 has been muted compared with the frenzy over Windows 95. And analysts said the migration to Windows NT, at least on the desktop, is sluggish.

The result: a hodgepodge of old and new versions of the Windows operating system on corporate America's desktops next year.

In fact, research firm Dataquest says the Windows 95 installed base isn't expected to exceed Windows 3.x until the end of this year.

Dataquest also revised its Windows NT forecast, dropping it from 11 million desktops by the end of this year to about 8 million.

The slow move to Windows NT is the result of the hype surrounding Microsoft's delayed Windows NT 5.0, which isn't slated to ship until the second half of next year, says Dataquest analyst Chris LeTocq.

Phil Easter, technology strategist at Greyhound Lines, Inc. in Dallas, says he will hold out on migrating his desktops to Windows 95 "for as long as I can." Easter said 80% of his firm's 1,500 end users still run Windows 3.1.

"Windows 3.1 works fine, and it suits our purposes. I'm still looking for vendors who build 16-bit applications so I have compatibility with legacy applications," Easter says.

Some businesses have made a decisive move to Windows NT based on factors such as hardware performance requirements, availability of applications and a belief that NT is the corporate desktop of the future.

"Some of our legacy systems didn't function well with Windows 95, and because our software vendors were pointing us in the direction of NT, we felt it was the way to go," says Frank Trotter, director of capital markets at Mercantile Capital Markets, a division of Mercantile Bank in St. Louis.

Several corporate technology managers, including Trotter, say they briefly looked at Windows 98, which is due in the first quarter of next year, but they don't plan to adopt it. They decided the new operating system will be immature when it first ships and won't provide any compelling new features.

Ron Peeo, a technical director at Universal Underwriters Group Inc., said his company eventually will look at Windows NT and will likely skip over Windows 98 because of its immaturity.

Many users interested in Window NT said they will have a mix of Windows 95 and NT for at least several years because NT is still more expensive to de-ploy, and some end users don't need such a heavy-duty operating system.

Others are just now migrating to Windows 95. "We're in the process of migrating all of our desktops to Windows 95 from a variety of platforms, and we went with it because we wanted something consistent and reliable," says Wyette Spotts, vice president of systems management at Universal Underwriters in Overland Park, Kansas.

Spotts said the decision to choose Windows 95 was based mainly on the fact that driver and application support for Windows NT wasn't advanced enough when the company was drawing up its migration plans earlier this year.

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