Desktop readiness blurs Vista vision

A recent Softchoice Corp. survey of desktops in North American firms revealed that 50 per cent of businesses do not meet the minimum hardware requirements to run Vista. The number almost doubles when it comes to Vista’s premium hardware requirements, showing that 94 per cent of companies surveyed don’t measure up.

Entitled Lack of Vista Readiness Pushes PC Lifecycle Management to the Forefront, the survey involved 112,113 desktop PCs from 472 Canadian and American organizations in various industries, including healthcare, finance, technology, education and manufacturing.

“Generally speaking, any computer older than 24 months will be unlikely to support the Vista OS,” wrote Dean Williams, corporate services consultant for Softchoice Corp. and author of the Vista readiness report.

Many organizations maintain PC lifecycles of 48 to 60 months, which means it may take at least two years before hardware requirements become a non-issue for organizations planning to adopt Vista, Williams explained.

The Canadian launch of Microsoft Corp.’s three newest products — its operating system Windows Vista, Office 2007 and Exchange Server 2007 — kicked off in Toronto last November, but don’t expect to be able to get these products off the shelf yet.

In what Microsoft Canada president Phil Sorgen called the “biggest launch in the history of Microsoft,” the event last November was simply a signal to business customers that they can now begin to purchase Vista and Office 2007 through Microsoft’s volume licensing program.

Exchange Server 2007, meanwhile, was scheduled for release to manufacturing last December. Vista and Office 2007 will be generally available off-the-shelf on January 30.

Despite concerns about the enterprise’s current hardware readiness, or lack thereof, Microsoft claims the Windows Vista uptake would be fast and sweet.

“We are expecting [Vista to be] the most quickly adopted (among our previous operating systems),” said Jill Schoolenberg, director, Windows Client at Microsoft Canada, during the Toronto Vista launch.

The uptake would be partly driven by the impending phenomenon of retiring baby boomers, leaving organizations struggling with the risk of losing many years of corporate knowledge to retirement, Schoolenberg explained. Vista’s enhanced functionality around file sharing and collaboration will be a significant driver for enterprise adoption, she added.

With respect to current hardware compatibility Schoolenberg claimed “any hardware that has shipped in the past couple of years will be Vista-capable.”

“We’ve also offered the Upgrade Advisor tool that lets you know if your hardware is capable of running Vista, or if you need to make any modifications to do that. But most hardware that’s been out there in the past two years will be able to run Vista,” the Microsoft director said.

One Canadian IT executive, however, is not immediately buying into the Vista message.

“Microsoft has always tended to glorify the operating system, but for us, (as technology users), more important are the applications that run on top of it,” said Mark Bonner, director of IT at Toronto-based law firm Goodman and Carr LLP.

Bonner’s IT team has tested Vista as well as Office 2007 and is familiar with their new features and functionalities. While Bonner admits Vista offers a better experience on the user interface side, he doesn’t see the need for his company to migrate to the new operating system, saying its current Windows XP environment “satisfies most of our needs.”

One big concern with Vista migration is third-party application compatibility, Bonner said. “[Customers] are going to be worried about the ability of their third-party applications to run clearly (on Vista). In a law firm like ours, we have so many applications running so we are concerned about testing those (on Vista) and we may take a while to trust [the new OS].”

In addition, the transition from XP to Vista is very different from when XP was introduced in 2001 to replace Windows 2000, as “there was more of a reason to do it then,” said Bonner. Info-Tech Research analyst Nauman Haque agreed with Bonner, saying many enterprise customers will be taking a wait-and-see approach to Vista adoption, allowing them time to test third-party applications on Vista as well as to develop a training and migration plan.


The issue around Vista’s software protection platform, which some refer to as the Vista “kill switch”, may also be inhibiting adoption. It essentially prescribes the activation requirements for installing Vista. If some of these activation requirements are not fulfilled, the software protection platform can cause the OS to run on reduced-functionality mode, explained Haque.

“That’s obviously a concern and people are just going to want to wait and see how that (issue) pans out,” said the Info-Tech analyst.

Bonner, however, credited the new operating system for its improved security features such as the Windows BitLocker Drive Encryption, saying the increased security in Vista can be a driver for its adoption, especially for organizations that deploy mobile devices and need to secure the data on those machines.

In addition to the drive encryption feature, Vista offers other security elements, such as the User Account Control, personal firewall and firewall management and the Microsoft Network Access Protection.

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