Enterprise-ready Vista to ship this month

Canadian enterprises will have access to volume licences of Windows Vista and Office 2007 by the end of this month, Microsoft confirmed Wednesday, products the company expects corporate customers will deploy at the same time.

Jim Alchin, co-president of Microsoft’s platforms and services division, delivered the news via teleconference, less than an hour after signing off on the release-to-market (RTM) version of the flagship operating system. “This is a great day,” he said. “It’s rock-solid, and we’re ready to ship.”

Consumer versions of Vista are due Jan. 30, the same timeline since Microsoft delayed the product in March.

Microsoft applied twice as many “stress tests” on Vista, Alchin said, referring to tests that push a PC with the OS harder than an average user, and received passing grades that are higher than XP or Windows 2000. It has also gone through 16 technical previews since the first beta, and an unnamed third-party was brought in to check for any security holes Microsoft might have missed, he said.

Alchin also emphasized several features in Vista that will address performance. These include SuperFetch, a technology designed to manage memory to get the most out of available RAM. Windows ReadyBoost, meanwhile, will use flash memory devices (like USB thumb drives) to boost performance. Windows ReadyDrive will tap into the power of hard disks with integrated flash memory to help improve battery life, he added.

“My hope this OS will be remembered for the huge progress we’ve made in terms of quality and security in particular,” said Alchin, who will retire from Microsoft in January. “We expect businesses to jointly deploy (Vista and Office). When they do that, we expect that the overall benefits will be dramatic.”

Pete Pawlack, senior analyst at research firm Directions on Microsoft, said Outlook 2007, which is part of Office 2007, may be coming out at the same time as Vista but runs just fine on XP. Similarly, Microsoft’s Exchange 2007 and Vista bear little relationship to one another in terms of IT purchasing decisions.

“There’s almost no relationship between the two,” Pawlack told ITBusiness.ca recently. “Vista is a client operating system. Those are budgets for two different areas for completely different reasons. I don’t think those are tied together very tightly.”

Patrick Power, managing partner for sales and marketing at Toronto-based OAM Computer Group, said the decision to deploy Vista and Office in tandem depends in large part on what companies are using now.

“For the most part, most (customers) are looking to do the OS first and then look at Office, although I’ve seen several scenarios that are looking at it in parallel,” he said, adding that there are some stability issues to consider. “An OS is more sensitive in the sense of upgrades. If you mix up Office, you can go back, but an OS change is a big deal.”

Power said many mid-market clients have been unclear on the shipping dates for Vista, and many of them are still struggling with the complexities around Software Assurance, Microsoft’s controversial licensing program.

“That’s a bit of a sore spot with many clients,” he said. “We make a living trying to explain that to people, and it’s even challenging for us at times.”

Alchin said Microsoft will include a single DVD that includes a broad array of SKUs aimed at different customer segments. It will also mark the first Windows RTM product that will be available in five languages simultaneously, including French, Spanish and Japanese. By the time it is broadly available to consumers, Vista will be available in 100 languages, Allchin said.

–With files from Neil Sutton

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