At long last, Vista

TORONTO – After a more than five-year lapse between new versions of its Windows operating systems, Microsoft Corp. on Thursday finally launched its much-awaited and much-delayed business version of Vista alongside new versions of Office and Exchange Server.

“Today’s a very important day for Microsoft,” said Phil Sorgen, president of Microsoft Canada Co., adding this was the biggest launch in the company’s history. “We’re at the dawn of a new day for business computing. These products are easier to use, are more secure and enable more third-party application development than anything we’ve ever done.”

But most businesses will not likely adopt Windows Vista right away. According to Gartner, it will be running on less than 10 per cent of the PC install base by the end of 2007 – with the business install base at 4.2 per cent. Gartner expects business adoption to grow to 39.1 per cent by 2010 and home adoption to rise to 28.6 per cent during the same time frame. Gartner also predicts that 58 per cent of PCs will ship with Vista in 2007.

Gartner recommends that companies spend 18 months testing, planning and piloting the system before doing any large-scale implementations.

Forrester Research Inc. says 34 per cent of PC decision-makers in North American and European enterprises plan to start Vista deployments within a year of its release – but it remains to be seen how broad those deployments will be.

Application compatibility, image development, application packaging and testing, PC refresh cycles, enterprise upgrade plans and budgets are among the factors that will come to play when enterprises determine whether or not to adopt the new OS, Forrester writes in a report entitled “Windows Vista – Finally!”

Microsoft has been criticized in the past for releasing software that was ridden with vulnerabilities and it’s hoping to change its image with Vista, which Sorgen said is the most tested operating system to date, with over five million beta testers.

The Source By Circuit City was one such tester.

“As the company sells and supports computers, we wanted to be able to stay current,” said Margo Weeks, vice-president of information systems at The Source, which was using Windows XP before making the switch.

The biggest benefit of upgrading to Vista so far is that its imaging format is hardware and vendor agnostic, Weeks said.

This has enabled the electronics vendor to cut its support and labour by a “tremendous amount.”

Doreen Bark, change management coordinator for The Source says the BitLocker encryption system has been another beneficial feature as it protects company data if a PC is lost and stolen. And more than 750,000 PCs suffer exactly that fate annually in the U.S. said Elliot Katz, senior product manager for Microsoft.

Another beneficial feature, according to Bark, is that standard users don’t have any administration rights. In previous versions of Windows, the vast majority of users would sign on as administrators – giving them the power to download non-standard software and introduce malware in the process, Katz said.

Supporting the non-standard software created a lot of difficulty, Bark said.

She’s also pleased with the Windows Meeting Space feature, which allows users to set up face-to-face ad hoc meetings in which they can share documents without the need for a network or Wi-Fi hotspot. Vista will recognize other Vista PCs within its vicinity and users can set up ad hoc, password-protected meetings.

This has been useful to The Source, Weeks said, as district managers often have to meet with store managers.

The Source has also begun testing Exchange Server 2007, which it plans to begin deploying after the busy holiday season has passed.

Prime Restaurants of Canada Inc., which operates the East Side Mario’s, Casey’s and Fionn MacCool’s franchises, has deployed Windows Vista, 2007 Office and Exchange Server 2007. The system is centralized and all of its restaurants now have a single-point of access through the Web. The standardization has made it easier to distribute and collect information, said Eric Lee, director of IT for Prime. The accounting department no longer has to contend with Excel documents from three or four different versions of Excel, for example.

And as the majority of the organization’s computers are laptops, Lee is particularly happy with BitLocker.

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