Microsoft is having problems getting enterprises to give up Internet Explorer 6 and Windows XP for IE7 and Vista, according to 2007 surveys of more than 50,000 corporate users.

Both IE6 and Windows XP are entrenched and showed little signs of weakening their lock on businesses, said Reedwan Iqbal, a researcher with Forrester Research. "A lot of critical enterprise applications are still not compatible with IE7," Iqbal said today in explaining one reason why corporations have stayed with the older IE6.

Forrester, which conducted monthly surveys throughout 2007 of more than 50,000 enterprise users, said that only 30 percent of corporate Internet Explorer users had switched to IE7 by year's end.

"Even with Microsoft spoon feeding users high-priority automatic updates, enterprise apathy is proving extremely difficult to overcome," said the report, which was published last Thursday.

Microsoft released IE7 in October 2006 and started pushing it to users via Automatic Updates in early December of that year.

In January 2007, the split among IE users in enterprises was approximately 90-10 in favour of IE6; by year's end, it had shifted, but only to 70-30. And now, with a beta of IE8 available, there may be little motivation for companies that haven't jumped to the next browser to bother.

"IE8 will be backward-compatible with IE7, and it will be more standards compliant, which is what web developers have been asking for," Iqbal said. In fact, Forrester recommended that businesses without an IE6-to-IE7 migration plan already in place should consider rolling out IE8 when it finalises.

Microsoft unveiled IE8 Beta 1 earlier this month, calling the build suitable for developers but making it available to anyone via download.

"IE7 was a bit of a botched job by Microsoft," Iqbal said. "It was trying to catch up to what [Microsoft] saw Mozilla doing, but they rushed things. It has tabs, a bit of candy, but nothing substantial."

The story's much the same for Windows XP and Windows Vista, Forrester's numbers showed, although Microsoft had even less success in weaning enterprise users from the older operating system than it did getting them to update their browsers.

"If you look at the trend, the uptake for Vista is really low," Iqbal said. "Windows XP is not budging at all."

By December 2007, only 6.3 percent of enterprise users working in Windows reported that they were on Vista, said Forrester's survey results. Although that was an increase from only 0.7 percent in January 2007, Windows XP's share didn't move during the year: It started 2007 at 89.5 percent of all Windows users and ended at 89.8 percent.

It appears that Vista made headway only at the expense of the even older Windows 2000 , Iqbal said. "Vista's increase mirrored the decrease in Windows 2000," he said. "The statistics speak for themselves: They're holding on to XP."

Here, too, Iqbal said, the prospect of something new on the horizon means companies may simply skip a version. "It is a bit early to say for certain, but it does look like enterprises may hold out for Windows 7," he said, referring to the next edition of Microsoft's operating system.

Microsoft has not nailed down a timetable for Windows 7, but has said that it's shooting for a three-year development cycle, which some, including Forrester, have taken to mean a release in late 2009 or early 2010, three years after the debut of Vista.

"One quarter of enterprises have scheduled 2008 deployments, but given the slow start, little gain in productivity, and the timetabled release of Windows 7 in H2 2009, businesses may decide to pull back rollouts or skip the version altogether," pushing Vista the way of Windows Millennium," the Forrester report said.

Microsoft was not immediately available for comment about the Forrester report.