When News.com posted an article where IDC claim that Vista will create 50000 new jobs in Europe, it wasn't long before the wags on Slashdot chimed in. But many commenters there missed the audacity of it all; IDC claim that these will be new jobs.
Why is IDC's claim partly right?
1. More software. New versions of Windows and Office provide a new look-and-feel that makes older apps look dated (in the same way that the fashion industry does). This encourages both development and sales of other updated products, though unfortunately Windows has not improved technically to the same degree and many users report that features like XP's wizard-based search facility in Explorer is clumsier to use than Windows 2000.
Aside: compare this with Solaris and Linux which have new features that improve performance and reliability; Solaris in particular has innovated with capabilities like ZFS and Dtrace.
2. More hardware. Beta-testers of Vista have reported that it requires a significantly greater increase in hardware power than previous Windows upgrades. This could be regarded as a destructive event, possibly an example of the "broken window" phenomenon in economics (reported on Slashdot). This will slow down initial demand for the OS, but it will eventually lead to greater demand for upgrading desktops and notebooks capable of running it well, which will certainly help distributors and supporters of PCs and some components like memory and graphic cards.
3. More support. A new version of Windows stimulates demand for updated educational materials, books, training.
So ok, why might this be wrong?
1. It's still Windows. In some sense, Vista simply cannibalises the network of people and companies that work on previous versions of Windows.
2. It's not just Windows. The Microsoft near monopoly is declining - slowly. It was thought that Linux would draw users from Microsoft by providing an alternative desktop OS to Windows; though that hasn't occured as fast as some expected, it is happening. Apple Mac has seen a slight increase in sales due to "drag" from iPod - a hardware-devouring Windows release may make the Mac look not just attractive but value for money.
3. The online alternative. Finally, "Web 2.0" has spawned an array of increasingly rich online applications; while none are an Office replacement, they provide rich ways to communicate and coordinate. In tandem with a free portable suite like OpenOffice.org, you can have a rich desktop on (old) Windows XP or new Linux or Solaris. If you really want the look of Windows Vista, you'll be able to get some of that through theming plug-ins for Windows (and Java for that matter).