According to Microsoft’s goofy marketing slogan, Windows Vista is "People Ready." "People Ready"? As opposed to what? "Computer Ready"? Given how long Vista was in development, I guess it had better be both people- and computer-ready. But here’s a more relevant question: Is Vista "IT-Ready"?
The quick answer is that Vista is a whole lot more IT-ready than Windows XP was when it launched in 2001. Microsoft provided no deployment tools or IT guidance at XP’s launch. XP application compatibility tools were an afterthought. Security-consciousness came well after XP’s launch and culminated only when XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) was released in 2004. But despite these shortcomings at XP’s launch, the market was ripe for XP, and nobody was clinging to Windows Millennium Edition (Me) or Windows 95 because they were "good enough."
All that has changed with the launch of Vista. A comprehensive set of deployment tools and guidance has been available for months: that is, Microsoft Solution Accelerator for Business Desktop Deployment 2007 (BDD) http://www.microsoft.com/technet/desktopdeployment/bdd/2007/default.mspx. And you can find the Vista Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/windowsvista/aa905078.aspx.
In addition to ACT, Microsoft is addressing app compat through its acquisition of SoftGrid, which Microsoft describes as an "application virtualization technology \[that\] can help significantly reduce the amount of application compatibility testing typically needed when deploying new applications, upgrades, and patches. Applications are served centrally and delivered directly to the user’s desktop in an isolated, virtualized image, minimizing application-related alterations to the operating system and compatibility challenges with other applications." (For more information, see http://download.microsoft.com/download/6/4/F/64F5DC66-832A-4DF3-BAF4-3B4E7FB9E500/datasheet-sg.pdf. ) And of course, security is a primary focus of Vista, which Microsoft calls the most secure OS ever.
However, IT pros still overwhelmingly tell me that they aren’t moving their organizations to Vista any time soon (although just about everyone is adopting Vista for personal use). Despite ACT and SoftGrid, app compat is still a factor, especially in connection with drivers and the need to upgrade hardware. And for many organizations XP is "good enough."
One reader told me, "I know Microsoft claims that Vista will cost less to maintain, but even they admit that it's a small margin. I expect that savings would disappear if they included end-user and IT retraining, not to mention the cost of porting the old apps to the new OS. By the time that margin of cost reduction pays for itself it will be time to move the next OS. We'll only be replacing XP as part of the hardware replacement cycle."
So is Vista IT-ready? Maybe that question is moot. I think this reader’s comment actually touches on an interesting point. The Microsoft folks seem to believe they’ve done everything necessary to make Vista ready for IT: Deployment and app compat tools await you, and security is baked in. But even if XP is good enough for your needs, Microsoft seems to feel no need to spend time persuading you of Vista’s value, because it knows sooner or later you’ll have to replace your hardware. And when you replace your hardware, you’re getting Vista--ready or not.
Still, I think it’s unwise of Microsoft to take IT adoption of Vista for granted. How fast will the hardware upgrade cycle really go? In two years, Microsoft is scheduled to release Vista’s successor, the new Windows version code-named Vienna. And Vienna will supposedly have yet another new UI, designed by the creators of the Office 2007 Ribbon UI. How many IT organizations will just skip Vista along with its learning curve and wait for Vienna? (For more about Vienna, see Paul Thurrott’s "No News Yet About Next Windows Version," http://www.windowsitpro.com/Article/ArticleID/95159/95159.html.)
Here’s some food for thought: Although the market was ripe for XP, up until about a year ago, the majority of business desktops were still on the Windows 2000 client, not XP. If IT waited five years to adopt XP, is it unreasonable to think organizations might skip Vista?
I’m not taking issue with Vista itself. I use it and love it. What I’m wondering is whether Microsoft’s Windows division, which is now led by Senior Vice President Steven Sinofsky, who has been in charge of the Office group, really understands the concerns IT pros face. Given the reasons why Sinofsky was put in charge of Windows (i.e., the long delay in shipping Vista), I’m willing to bet Vienna will ship on time. But will Sinofsky’s leadership provide real reasons for IT to choose Vista, or will Microsoft just arrogantly assume Vista will make its way onto business desktops through hardware upgrades, no matter what?
Please let me know how you're using Vista and whether you've already deployed it or soon will be deploying it in your organization. I’d love to hear about your experiences and any tips you have for other readers. We’ll publish your best submissions and tips, and we'll pay $100 for the tips.
In the meantime, whether you’re ready for Vista or getting ready, here are some resources to help you:
Checking PCs for compatibility:
Windows Vista Security:
Vista Migration Security Risks:
Forefront Client Security podcast: