Time has come to upgrade to Vista

Have you finalised your plans for upgrading to Windows Vista? Time is running out to do so.

Have you finalised your plans for upgrading to Windows Vista? Time is running out to do so.

Windows XP Pro was introduced in 2001 and Microsoft has a 10-year lifecycle policy, so the end is in sight. Indeed, support for Windows XP Support Pack 1 ended last year.

Back in 2004, I speculated that if the release of what we used to call Longhorn was delayed as long as 2007, then Linux might be just about ready to take over as a general purpose business operating system on the desktop.

Sadly, it isn’t. (If you think it is, good luck – you will need it.) That means we are in for a fourth wave of Windows, and Vista is almost certainly going to take over just like Windows 3, Windows 95, and Windows 2000/XP did before.

So the question is not if, but when to upgrade.

Curiously, Microsoft is not driving the change as hard as it might. It will obviously benefit financially if companies switch to Vista and Office 2007. However, Microsoft is making some of the new features of Vista available for XP and earlier versions of Office.

These include the Internet Explorer 7 browser, Windows Presentation Foundation (which uses XAML), and Office Open XML file format support.

Vista also comes with a classic mode to make the changeover slightly simpler for XP users. I suspect this is not intended to discourage users from switching. It is more likely to be about making it easier for organisations to survive mixed installations.

And given that most PC manufacturers will stop selling XP-based machines in 12 months or less, it may well be necessary.

But are there any benefits to moving? Microsoft’s Cynthia Crossley, who runs Windows client in the UK, says lowering IT costs is the main benefit.

 “It is a business value message. We are getting a lot of traction from having the information management discussion,” she said.

The image-based installation and software tools also make it easier to deploy Vista, so more IT departments should be able to roll it out before it becomes obsolete.

The second reason is security, with, too many features to list, said Crossley. Among these security features, user account controls, the ability to block specific devices attached to USB ports, and Bitlocker drive encryption will appeal to enterprises, especially if they have lots of notebook PCs.

Either way, Vista has improved security, which should make it fundamentally safer than XP Service Pack 2.

But we have not yet arrived at the hard part.

Today, the business desktop is standardised on Windows XP running mostly on 32-bit single-core Intel processors. By 2010, it will probably have standardised on Windows Vista running on 64-bit dual or quad-core chips.

How many of your organisation’s essential applications are 64-bit clean and multi-threaded? How many of your devices have working Longhorn Display Driver Model drivers?

Bully for you if you are already testing. If not, you could start looking for a purchase order.

Jack Schofield is computer editor at The Guardian

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