What if they wrote an operating system and nobody logged on? In May 2005, I wrote a column called “Mad as hell, switching to Mac”.

My reasons for migrating my company to OS X were based on security issues, from malware to availability.

Then along came Core Duo. OS X was already considered a solid platform, but with the migration to an Intel platform, suddenly the Mac had entered mainstream consciousness.

Now along comes Vista. The bad news is that to take advantage of Vista’s aero look/feel and other enhancements, some serious hardware is required. That’s money. The bad news is that the reviews seem to agree: Vista is a nice, pleasant XP makeover, but is it worth the new software and licensing fees? That’s money. The bad news is “who wants to migrate an enterprise to Version 1.0” of anything that can affect negatively operations and security because of unknown glitches we expect in first releases.

In addition, along comes virtualization. Virtualization software for running Windows on Linux and Macs from start-up Parallels is yet another major step toward operating system glasnost: the total openness of choice of operating system on single hardware platforms based on operational needs.

Virtualization is perhaps the single greatest security tool of the third millennium.

Consider this: Assuming you can budget new hardware for a pilot rollout, get Macs. Kill the old PCs and use the XP licences on new partitions. Just for giggles, install Linspire Five-0. Cost: about the same as or less than a Vista-ready WinTel PC, and you get three distinct operating environments, each with its own pros and cons. Then, make four rules:

  • Never touch the Internet with the Windows side of your Mac/Intel/Win/Linux/PC. You will achieve pretty decent Internet security from the Unix-based Mac/Linux side.
  • Use only Mac Office or OpenOffice. Viruses and worms cannot (yet) migrate in OS X and Linux.
  • Use only browsers in the OS X and Linux partition. We generally don’t care if home users who access our applications are PC, Mac or Linux.
  • Use only the PC/XP partition for those applications that absolutely must be Windows based.

What will you achieve? Operating system glasnost — the opening of the desktop to operate in any domain, with increased security, letting management have a wider range of application options. A platform you can tailor to your application needs across three environments, putting the choice back into the hands of management. Cost reductions in security licensing and security application compatibility. Less reliance on the user to do things right. Is this perfect? No. Is it a tradeoff? Sure. Is it doable? Yes. If you’re looking for the Vista/OS X appearance and to lower costs and maintain existing architectures, give this pilot a try.

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