Foley on Microsoft

Vista: 5 Reasons to Deploy; 5 to Delay

Which will you choose?

If Microsoft sticks to its schedule, the company will make Windows Vista available to business customers with volume-license agreements some time this month. Once that happens, a whole new dating game begins: When should -- and will -- businesses deploy Vista?

After talking with IT folks at a number of companies of varying sizes, I'd say Vista's beauty will be in the eye of the beholder. There really are some customers who are champing at the bit for Vista, while others have absolutely no interest in moving to Vista by 2008 or even later. Here's what both fans and detractors are saying.

Five Reasons to Deploy

  1. Security, security, security: Microsoft plans to push improved security as Vista's No. 1 feature, with good reason. Who can say no to more security (even if it comes with annoying prices, like more pop-up confirmations as a result of Vista's new User Access Control system)? Business users are interested in BitLocker encryption, more anti-spyware and better anti-phishing protections.
  2. Improved system stability and performance: Vista includes new memory management, signed driver support, I/O improvements, Clean Service shutdown and other features designed to make it run longer and faster (provided you have the hardware muscle to take advantage of these features).
  3. Deployment's easier and cheaper than it used to be: Microsoft has improved its deployment tools and is on its way to convincing customers that they'll make their Vista rollouts easier and less painful. Among them: an updated Application Compatibility Toolkit, Windows Automated Installation Kit and the overhauled Business Desktop Deployment Accelerator tools.
  4. Software Assurance makes Vista "free": We're not talking free as in Linux or free as in beer. But if you paid for Software Assurance, you should get automatic Vista upgrade rights once the product's available.
  5. Vista will work "better together" with Office 2007 and Exchange 2007: Even though users will be able to run Office 2007 on Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, Microsoft's new desktop suite will run better on Vista. Why not throw in the new Exchange Server 2007, which has hooks for Vista and Office 2007, while you're already upending your infrastructure?

Five Reasons to Delay

  1. Never deploy a new version of Windows before Service Pack 1 arrives: There's a reason this old adage is still around. Vista went through a rocky road on its way to RTM. As recently as this summer, even Microsoft's testing allies said Vista was nowhere near ready for prime time. Many believe Microsoft rushed Vista through the final testing stages and the Redmondians will be forced to deliver SP1 soon after the launch.
  2. Vista's new features don't add up to a compelling upgrade: Quite a few users and testers have reduced Vista's feature list to one very visible thing: the Aero user interface. Vista is all eye candy, more than one IT pro has said. Other features, including improved search and the aforementioned security, performance and stability, aren't compelling enough, some claim.
  3. Incompatibility problems: Incompatibility hurt the adoption of Windows XP Service Pack 2 -- even the Softies themselves admit that now. So far, we've yet to see a public, Microsoft-sanctioned list of apps that aren't working properly with Vista. However, we do know the new user-account-control system breaks a number of existing apps, and there are still lots of missing Vista device drivers.
  4. Steep learning curve for support folks and users: New software means new features and more support calls. Vista works and looks much differently than existing versions of Windows. Training costs are going to go up -- that is a given.
  5. WGA and volume license-key headaches: Vista is rife with more Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA), meaning a number of its components are going to require users to go through anti-piracy checks before using them. If WGA worked perfectly, this would be (relatively) acceptable.

So what's your take? Are you doing a Vista wait and see? Write me at mjfoley@redmondmag.com and let me know which camp you're in and why.

About the Author

Mary Jo Foley is editor of the ZDNet "All About Microsoft" blog and has been covering Microsoft for about two decades. She has a new book out, Microsoft 2.0 (John Wiley & Sons, May 2008), about what's next for Microsoft in the post-Gates era.

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