Newham Borough Council has delayed a major desktop roll-out after hitting a barrier in its 10-year strategic relationship with Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard.
The council has put back the deployment of Windows Vista in its new 1,500-desktop corporate head office by 12 months, because of a lack of Vista-certified applications from its third-party suppliers.
As a result, Newham will incur the cost of deploying XP in the new office, only to have to upgrade the machines to Vista at a later date. The council will now roll out Windows XP in March 2008 instead of Vista as originally planned.
"Microsoft should have raised this problem earlier on. But it is not just Microsoft, it is our problem as well. We really needed to plan with Microsoft much earlier and lobby software suppliers to get their applications ready," said Richard Steel, CIO at Newham council.
Newham could run Vista using virtualisation, but its third-party suppliers are not offering support for virtualisation, Steel said. Instead, the council will now have to install Windows twice, and will need to manage separate sets of applications for each operating system.
Newham signed the 10-year deal with Microsoft and HP in 2004, following an evaluation comparing Windows against the cost of running a Linux infrastructure.
The contract allowed the council to gain early access to the latest Microsoft technology, and elevated Newham to one of five key Microsoft public sector accounts. Steel has driven the use of IT functionality at Newham through the relationship. He planned to use Vista to implement green computing, run modern PCs and provide collaborative computing for end-users.
"There is a lot of functionality in the new Vista desktop that could increase our productivity," he said.
The delay shows the limitations of long-term strategic partnerships with major IT suppliers, say analysts. David Mitchell, senior vice-president of IT research at analyst firm Ovum, said, "Microsoft should offer resources to get third-party applications certified more quickly."
Ray Titcombe, chairman of IT user group the Strategic Supplier Relationships Group, recommended that IT directors review contracts with strategic suppliers every two years, and put in place an arbitration clause to cover both parties.
Manoj Shetty, head of local and regional government at Microsoft, said, "It is a challenge. We are looking to roll out Vista at Newham as quickly as possible to address this issue."