Microsoft Corp.'s effort to get big businesses to buy the new version of its Windows operating system isn't just about selling security improvements, better search tools and improved graphics.
The company also hopes to convince companies that you have to spend money — on Windows Vista — to save money on other business costs.
Microsoft plans Tuesday to release research showing that changes it made to Vista could help companies reduce energy costs — small amounts, it concedes, but ones that could add up over time.
Microsoft also has been trying hard to convince companies that Vista could be easier to manage and require less technical help, also reducing costs.
Vista, the first major upgrade to Microsoft's operating system in five years, is due out to business customers in November and to consumers in January.
Analyst Joe Wilcox with Jupiter Research said there may be cost savings associated with the new program, but, "The question is, 'What will it cost them to upgrade to Vista?'"
The retail cost to upgrade or buy a new copy of Vista runs between $99.95 and $399, depending upon version, although some large corporations buy software like this through broader licensing agreements, and prices vary.
In addition to the software cost, for many companies, moving to a new operating system means other expense and hassle. There's also the cost of testing it to make sure it works with other, often highly specialized corporate software, then installing it and training people to use it.
Many companies will wait a year or more before starting such a move, simply to see if all the bugs in the software are worked out.
Wilcox said the timing of Vista's release — years after some initially expected it — could hurt Microsoft even more. Many companies upgraded their computer equipment around 1999, to deal with fears about Y2K, prompting another rash of upgrades five years later, around 2004, he said.
Now, he said, some companies may not want to spend money on new software or equipment, meaning Microsoft has to come up with a solid argument for doing so.
Dean DeWhitt, director of the Windows Kernel Team, said he was surprised to hear from big corporate customers who were thinking about how to save money by reducing energy costs.
"When it gets down to the bottom line, it all counts," he said.
Windows Vista, Microsoft says, can let desktop computers more efficiently manage electricity, much like laptop computers have long conserved battery power.
The software also allows corporations to centrally manage how all workers' computers act when they aren't being used. The ability for one technical manager to make sure all computers go into low-power mode when not in use, or go to sleep instead of being left on all night, could lead to significant savings, DeWhitt said.
Brad Goldberg, a general manager in Microsoft's Windows group, said Microsoft also is telling corporate customers that the investment in Vista is worth it in part because of other long-term cost-savings. Among other things, Goldberg said the system could be easier for companies to manage, be more reliable and secure, and could require users to seek out less technical help.