Microsoft says Windows Vista can cut desktop costs by up to 63% while improving security. How will Vista and Office 2007 make good on these claims?
This Thursday (30 November), Microsoft will release its Windows Vista desktop operating system and Office 2007 productivity suite to business users.
Vista is being touted as Microsoft's most significant product release since Windows 95 was introduced 11 years ago. It is expected to be adopted by the vast majority of computer users in time.
Vista will be available first to volume licence holders on Microsoft's Software Assurance scheme. They will receive an exclusive version, called Windows Vista Enterprise. A consumer version will then be available in January 2007.
The updated version of Vista boasts sophisticated hardware security, integrated document search capabilities and usability improvements. These are provided by new graphical features such as the Aero interface, which features a transparent windows effect.
As a result, Vista will make heavier use of the PC processor, graphics card and memory, and Microsoft has suggested minimum and optimal PC hardware specifications, even making an online tool available to determine whether your machines will run the operating system.
Microsoft has said Vista will allow IT departments to reduce desktop management costs by as much as 63% and improve IT security, particularly for mobile users.
However, many businesses are not expected to upgrade their systems immediately, but rather to wait until the software matures. For example, IT directors within the Corporate IT Forum were cautious about whether the benefits of Vista are compelling enough to justify an early upgrade ahead of their desktop renewal timetables.
Office 2007 also features significant changes, most notably the Communicator unified messaging client, collaboration tool Groove, electronic forms tool Infopath, and e-notebook Onenote. It also has 2007 versions of Excel, Outlook, Powerpoint, Word, Access and Publisher.
A new interface features a "ribbon" rather than a taskbar, which presents commands organised into a set of tabs.
But the biggest change for Office is that it is being positioned as a business application platform that will act as a front end for third-party business applications from the likes of SAP and Oracle.
Initiatives such as Duet allow SAP processes to be accessed via familiar Office applications. SAP plans this December to release "value packs" that extend Office 2007 to SAP's travel, support and sales, and demand planning management applications.
Oracle and others have also been working with Microsoft behind the scenes to accomplish similar integration.
Forrester Research vice-president John Rymer said, "Assuming mass adoption of the new release, Office 2007 will be a strong alternative to custom desktop applications built using Windows Forms and a good platform for collaborative Windows desktop applications. Office 2007 will also provide an alternative for building some kinds of rich internet applications and will compete with Ajax techniques and Adobe Flex."
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