04 Jan Wisconsin firms won't rush to adopt Microsoft Vista
Madison, Wis. – It was introduced a month ago, and already Microsoft’s Windows Vista, the successor to the Windows XP operating system, has been bruised by critical media reports about security flaws and other shortcomings.
We hunted for insight from area CIOs that have tested the beta version. We posed several questions to Justin Jaeck, vice president of Sonic Foundry, and Chris Luter, director of information technologies for Veridian Homes, to get their take on Vista.
Since August, Jaeck and his Sonic Foundry cohorts have been running the Vista beta to test functionality with the applications they develop, and to assess the value of deploying Vista throughout the organization.
Their general impression is that Vista is an aesthetically appealing “beast” with a very large footprint on a system – and noticeably sluggish. “This came as a surprise to us since we are all running top-of-the-line computers,” Jaeck said. “In some cases, the beta became so sluggish that it was unusable, leaving no other option but to wipe and move on to a newer release.”
With the retail release, he added, there are noticeable performance improvements, but no way around the fact that you need a high-powered PC to run Vista.
Sonic Foundry has never been gun shy about trying new releases. In Jaeck’s view, it’s important for Sonic’s software developers to use current products, and many of them will switch to Vista in forthcoming months, but that rule isn’t universally applicable. Jaeck said there is no way he could justify the cost to upgrade the rest of the company to Vista, citing the cost of new PCs necessary to run it.
“There just is not anything in it that will be of value to those in departments such as sales and accounting,” he stated.
According to Luter, the requirements to run Vista are “very advanced,” which would require hardware upgrades along with changes to the server infrastructure. “While I work for a technologically innovative company, it is still essential to guard our investments and make them last, such as the third-party solutions (Citrix) that we’ve purchased,” he said.
Additional security features, including built-in encryption software from BitLocker, have been identified as a significant upgrade from XP. While Jaeck said the security capabilities seem improved over those of XP, he has some remaining doubts. “Like many other companies, we don’t trust Microsoft to handle much, if any, of our network security,” he said. “I see no reason to adjust this going forward.”
Luter said many of the security capabilities of Vista also are included with Windows XP and Service Pack 2. He believes an OS needs to be up and running for at least six months to gauge the security system’s effectiveness. “Until we’ve given hackers time to try and break the system,” Luter advised, “I would not recommend moving away from third-party solutions.”
One potential drawback, Luter noted, is that BitLocker software encrypts the entire hard drive, which will make it difficult to recover data from a damaged hard drive.
Bells and whistles
As for the aesthetics, Jaeck said Microsoft obviously devoted a lot time to the interface to make it more pleasing and perhaps more functional when users adjust to some of the changes. While he said the system requirements necessary to make Vista “look pretty” are excessive, he conceded that upgrades to Explorer, and the opportunity to see an application preview when switching between programs, are nice improvements.
Luter thinks alterations to the graphic user interface give Vista much more of a Macintosh OS X feel, and added that the extra amenities not only take up prime real estate on the desktop, but take an excessive amount of time to set up.
In addition, they have yet to prove valuable in a business sense, he noted. The gadgets are interesting, but they take Luter back to the days of the “Active Desktop,” which fizzled out quickly with Windows 95 and Windows 98.
The extras appear to be targeted more to the home user, rather than business professionals, Luter said. For instance, he saw a great deal of focus placed on media support, including MP3 players and video , which are not necessities for the average business user.
Conversely, Luter was impressed with the improved search functions. “It allows for a much deeper search, which is also easier to manage,” he said.
Vista mania hasn’t spread far, and Jaeck and Luter recommend a measured approach to adoption. Outside of Sonic Foundry’s engineers and software developers, Jaeck doesn’t believe the company will install Vista on its next scheduled upgrade.
In addition, he said there still are applications that Sonic employees rely on that will not run on Vista. Users are very efficient on their XP systems, he added, and most are not performing tasks that require Vista features.
It is likely that Vista deployment will require CIOs to rethink how they mass deploy operating systems, manage updates, and train users. “I think most businesses require considerable time to migrate to a new platform such as Vista,” Jaeck stated. “It takes a lot of effort to evaluate, plan, and deploy.
“Many IT departments also traditionally wait for the first service pack before rolling out a new MS operating system.”
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