This week, I'd like to take an informal poll of Windows IT Pro UPDATE readers regarding Windows Vista. Specifically, when do you plan to begin rolling out Microsoft's next client OS in your environments?

This question is more complicated than might be originally obvious, of course. Many organizations will no doubt wait quite a while--years even--before looking seriously at Vista. And many organizations will roll out Vista over time--first to those employees that may need certain of its features.

But I'm curious. Microsoft has suffered through years of bad publicity thanks to a seemingly never-ending series of delays. A number of security-related concerns, which I've maybe harped on a bit too much here in UPDATE recently, have also raised questions about the validity of Microsoft's security claims for the new OS. Despite all this, Vista is a major improvement over Windows XP. It's more secure, certainly. It's more full-featured, with a host of useful built-in applications. And it's more easily and elegantly deployed, thanks to new image-based deployment tools.

Ease of use doesn't typically get corporate bean counters excited, and easier deployment really just means yet another thing to learn. Better security should get any Windows user excited, although many also have concerns about the User Account Control (UAC) and its effect on users and the Help desk.

As for new features, Microsoft will be talking up several of them in tandem with the Release Candidate 1 (RC1) release that's expected in early September. Some of these features, like the Easy Transfer Tool, Media Center, and the Snipping Tool, have a decided consumer bent. But others, like Meeting Space (peer-to-peer virtual meetings over wireless networks), Ready Boost (performance improvements thanks to USB 2.0-based memory keys), and the Application Compatibility Toolkit will be of interest to many businesses. That said, I still don't think Microsoft has made a compelling case for why businesses absolutely must upgrade to Vista. Am I missing something there?

I can say this. I've been very critical of the quality of Vista prerelease builds, and deservedly so. But that's changed with last week's release of Vista build 5536, which is a so-called "escrow" build for RC1. (Beta testers received build 5536 last Friday; MSDN and TechNet subscribers will get it some time this week.) The suddenness with which Vista has gone from unusable to desirable is quite shocking. With build 5536, the performance is amazing. All the bugs that have bedeviled me since Beta 2 and beyond are fixed. Hardware that never worked properly with Vista suddenly configures and works fine, with no user intervention. It's like Microsoft flipped the "start working" bit. It just works. (Find out more in my build 5536 review; see the URL below.)

With that in mind, I recommend you grab a copy of RC1 when it becomes publicly available in early September, even if you don't plan on rolling out Vista for quite some time. This will be the first chance many will have to see a version of Vista that both works well and is representative of the final product. Heck, it might help you make a decision about that migration project I suspect many of you are understandably putting off.

Windows Vista Build 5536 Review
http://www.winsupersite.com/article/reviews/windows-vista-build-5536-review.aspx

Let me know about your Vista plans by visiting the Comments section below