Vista is Here

      Time flies.  It’s been almost six years since Windows XP was introduced to the world.  Vista, Microsoft’s new pc operating system, was officially released to businesses on November 30th.  You will see it on individual pc’s available for sale starting on January 30, 2007.  In addition, Microsoft is introducing new versions of Office, Exchange Server, and SharePoint in 2007… quite an ambitious undertaking.

      There are five versions of Windows Vista: Home, Home Premium, Business, Enterprise (requires software assurance), and Ultimate.  Our advice to you is to get the Business Edition for the pc’s in your company.  Without it, the pc cannot join a domain, set itself up for remote desktop access, be governed by group policies, or use the encrypted file system (EFS).  The Ultimate edition combines the Home Premium features such as HD Movie Maker and DVD Authoring with the Business Edition feature set.

     What makes Vista different?  Well for starters, Microsoft states that Windows Vista is more reliable than Windows XP, reducing both the frequency and impact of user disruptions.  It includes fixes for known crashes and hangs, and new technology that will prevent many common causes of hangs and crashes.  It has better self monitoring, reporting features, and supposedly, self-correction of problems detected such as slow performance, etc.

      Next, security has been beefed up.  With Group Policies  you can now prevent the copying of data to a removable device such as a USB flash drive.  Microsoft has done a better job of giving necessary permissions to standard users so that a user does not have to have administrator rights to a pc to do their work.  Windows BitLocker Drive Encryption encrypts entire volumes helping to secure corporate data if a notebook or pc is lost or stolen (Enterprise Edition only).

     There are several features that can improve worker productivity.  The new “Aero” user interface features transparent glass-like windows that allow users to do more things at once.  You can more easily see the open programs and documents on your pc with “live” icons.  Included is a very nice desktop search engine to find information on your computer.  It has Internet Explorer 7 built in.  There is a new Sync Center for syncing a pc to the network, to another pc, or to a mobile device. Windows Meeting Space has been added to permit small (two to ten users) Vista to Vista web meetings similar to Live Meeting.

     Until the operating system is released in mass, you will find that some pc’s being sold are coming with an upgrade coupon.  Be careful if you are purchasing a new pc that states that it is “Windows Vista Capable”.  That designation simply means that you can load the most basic Home version on it which does not utilize the Aero interface.  If the pc literature says that it is “Windows Vista Premium Ready” then the hardware is probably ok.  A new business pc needs to have a minimum of 1 GB of RAM, a DVD ROM drive, and a video display board that supports DirectX 9 graphics with a WDDM driver, 128 MB of graphics memory (minimum), Pixel Shader 2.0, and is capable of 32 bits per pixel.  Most nVidia and ATI graphics cards meet these specifications.

     Should your company upgrade its current pc’s with Windows XP to Vista?  First, check with each of your major software vendors to ensure that their software has been certified to run on Vista.  Next, determine whether the pc’s to be upgraded meet the specifications.   How many years will you be keeping this pc?  If it is only a year or two, the time and expense is probably not worth it.  Many companies are delaying any upgrades to Vista until the first major service pack comes out which will probably not be until mid 2007.  However, we suspect that most corporate IT Departments will start buying their new pc’s with Vista pre-installed to save themselves the work of upgrading the pc’s later.

     Life’s an adventure.  Go for it.


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