Survey: Vista Can Wait

Twelve percent of respondents said they'll upgrade in the next 12 months.
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Consumers are overwhelmingly aware of

Microsoft's

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new Vista operating system. But only a small group of them intend to upgrade to it anytime soon, a new survey has found.

According to a poll by Harris Interactive, only 12% of respondents said they planned to upgrade to Vista within the next 12 months. And only one in five said Vista would cause them to buy a PC sooner than they had planned.

The survey results represent a worrisome trend for Microsoft, as well as PC makers like

Dell

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and

Hewlett-Packard

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, which are hoping that Vista will entice consumers to upgrade to new, more powerful machines.

Microsoft is reportedly spending hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing for Vista, which it released at the end of January.

The software giant has sent out mixed messages about the reception of its new operating system. In February, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer cautioned Wall Street that expectations about Vista sales were

"overly aggressive."

Last month, however, Microsoft boasted that Vista sales in the first month exceeded 20 million licenses, more than double the initial sales pace logged by the previous operating system, Windows XP.

The Harris Interactive survey, which polled 2,223 U.S. online adults between March 6 and March 14, found that Microsoft's marketing efforts have been noticed. According to the poll 87% of respondents said they were aware of the new operating system. An earlier poll by Harris before Vista's release pegged the awareness level at only 47%.

That awareness isn't necessarily translating into new customers, though.

In the survey, 60% of respondents said that the arrival of Vista has had no impact on their decision to purchase a new PC, and that they will upgrade to a new machine as they planned prior to the announcement of Vista.

Only 20% said Vista would cause them to accelerate their PC purchase.

Retail PC sales spiked in the first days of Vista availability. But sales have cooled in the weeks since the initial buying frenzy, according to market research firm Current Analysis.

That's because the initial wave of buying was led by so-called early adopters -- gearheads who get their kicks standing outside stores at midnight to be the first on their block with the latest toy.

As the more mainstream consumers consider Vista, fears of software bugs and compatibility with other hardware can cause some reluctance to upgrade.

Indeed, some computer makers

continue to offer consumer PCs featuring the older Windows XP to satisfy cautious customers.

"Microsoft has faced this challenge before with operating system upgrades," said Milton Ellis, vice president of Harris Interactive's technology group in a statement. "Consumers tend to wait until a few service packs have been released to fix real or perceived problems. No doubt, Microsoft understands these issues and will proceed accordingly."

Shares of Microsoft closed Thursday up 5 cents to $28.55.