The Key Benefits of MSI
Others have done a way better job at summarizing the benefits (and shortcomings!) of Windows Installer technology. Most notably a person named Stein Åsmul who has provided one of the most comprehensive summaries.
In short: MSI (Windows Installer) is the standard for corporate deployment since it offers a number of corporate benefits of major significance compared to previous installation technologies. The benefits center around reliable remote management and standardization - crucial corporate deployment concerns.
In brief the most important, specific benefits are probably:
Reliable silent running (standardized & completely suppressible GUI)
Implicitly available uninstall (a nightmare when dealing with legacy setups)
Transparency (installer’s semi-transparent and inspectable nature - except compiled CAs)
Elevated installation rights (no messy temporary admin rights)
Standardized command line (no hunting for “secret” switches)
Administrative installation (file extract - essential for corporate repackaging)
Verbose logging (helpful and verbose indeed :-) )
Standardized package customization (transforms - database fragments)
Rollback support (can undo changes for failed installs)
Inventory (management and reporting: full registration of what is installed and where)
Active Directory / GP integration
Altogether this yields MSI’s overall benefit: reliable, remote management of deployment for busy system administrators in large, corporate environments. Crucial benefits, despite the technology’s complexity and quirkiness.