To Vista or not to Vista?

Published in the Ottawa Business Journal newspaper and website.
Jan. 15, 2007

Click here to view this article on (published Jan. 5 2007).

Microsoft has just launched its new Windows Vista operating system, and while some people may be groaning aloud at the thought of upgrading their operating systems yet again, many IT support firms are welcoming the change.

The software giant launched its new operating system in Canada on Nov. 30, five years after the release of its last operating system, Windows XP.

While the new version of Windows boasts prettier graphics, better security and more networking options for the mobile employee, how necessary is it for companies to upgrade their systems right away?

“It’s more intuitive, has better security features, and is easier to use, but do customers have to upgrade? No,” says Larry Poirier, chief executive of local IT outsourcing firm Nitro Microsystems.

Mr. Poirier says companies should wait until late spring or early summer to ensure their applications and systems can run in the new operating system, but adds that it isn’t necessary to rush out and upgrade right now.

However, he also stresses that Windows Vista will be able to unlock a lot of capabilities in the newer dual-core processors that Windows XP couldn’t take advantage of, enabling computers to run faster and more efficiently.

“This is actually the longest gap ever between operating system upgrades since Windows first came out,” says Mr. Poirier. “The hardware’s evolved, but the operating system hasn’t done the same over the past six years.”

Frank Curry, regional solutions director for Microsoft-focused IT consulting firm Avanade Inc., says Windows Vista has a lot of new features which enable companies to employ best practices and save costs.

Mr. Curry notes that the operating system helps solve a lot of problems with security and network access, while making users more independent by facilitating self-diagnosis and mobile communications.

“I think it will drive end-user costs down, although not overnight,” he says. “It will allow for a more holistic view of the desktop environment.”

Mr. Curry says the system could generate savings of 40 to 60 per cent by helping to lower some of the costs of desktop management, including the time an end-user takes to configure his or her computer settings, troubleshoot, set up user accounts, and find and access files.

Although Windows XP works fine, Mr. Curry notes that it doesn’t work as well with today’s mobile worker as Windows Vista does, citing the example of how Vista allows users on laptops to easily connect to the Internet without having to spend time searching for wireless networks.

“It takes the guesswork out of the game,” he says.

And while Windows Vista may be a bit memory-extensive and therefore unsuitable for older computers, Mr. Curry says he doesn’t think an upgrade will mean a huge hardware overhaul.

“Companies can just start rolling out the operating system based on when the newer machines come out,” he explains.

Despite the apparent added benefits of Windows Vista, however, some end-users don’t see the need to jump to an upgrade.

Erik Hajborg, vice-president of digital media company Axionic Design Studios, says it can be a hassle to upgrade early unless there’s a really good reason.

“There’s a lot more (to consider) than just whether it crashes less,” says Mr. Hajborg. “We have to see if it works with our existing software, we may have to upgrade across our network, and it’s quite a big chunk… It’s always good to upgrade at some point, but we’re not early adapters.”

As a company which designs websites and interactive multimedia, Axionic deals with various computer platforms for different functions – PCs for administrative purposes, Macs for design, and the Linux operating system for web hosting.

He notes Axionic will likely have to work with clients to design Vista-friendly websites at some point, and says that the company will be testing out the operating system within a year. However, he also says he doesn’t think businesses need to rush.

“Until there’s a really good reason, we’re just going to wait until the bugs are worked out,” he says.

Nonethless, Mr. Poirier predicts that people will start upgrading their operating systems within the next two years, based on what he’s seen on his website logs.

In early 2002 when Windows XP was first launched, he notes, 65 per cent of people logging onto his website were using XP, while 35 per cent were using Windows 2000.

Six month later, 85 per cent of users were on Windows XP.

“While they’re not the same reasons this time (for upgrading), they’re still valid – speed, performance and ease of use,” says Mr. Poirier. “People tend to upgrade when something newer is available. They don’t want to be left behind.”

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