Big Headache

Columnist Mark Hall responds to Frank Hayes' prediction that Vista Is IT's Big Opportunity.

Mark Hall. Credit: Robbie McClaran

Mark Hall

Credit: Robbie McClaranFrank, I surrender. You don’t have to write another word. You’re absolutely correct. Microsoft’s Vista operating system will have the biggest effect of the two major new desktop operating systems headed toward IT departments in 2007. Even if it wanted to, Apple couldn’t make such a claim about Mac OS X Version 5, a.k.a. Leopard, which is due next month. The impact Vista has on IT will be far greater than anything Apple could conjure up this year. But that’s not necessarily a good thing.

I’m afraid that 2007 could become known as the Year of the Great Vista Fiasco (GVF), resulting in the breakout of OS X in the minds of IT. A small but significant part of the GVF will emanate from end users. The GVF will be most felt inside IT shops. And it will begin even before the operating system rollout officially gets under way in most organizations.

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That’s because this time, Microsoft has changed the rollout rules, and none favors IT. First, there’s the way in which Microsoft is seeding the market with free copies of Vista. It’s something you’ve written about yourself, Frank (see “Get Ready for RC1,” Sept. 18, 2006).

By putting more than 2 million copies of Vista into the hands of anyone with enough money to buy a consumer PC magazine but maybe not enough brains to try to upgrade his PC on personal time rather than company time, Microsoft isn’t exactly doing IT a favor. As you said, “We don’t know what it will break or what risks it will create. And we don’t have control over how it will hit us — or time to clean up a mess.”

BIGGEST FLOPS

Survey respondents identified the top five technologies they think will flop the biggest in 2007:

1. Vista

2. RFID

3. Linux

4. VoIP

5. WiMax

Source: Computerworld's quarterly Vital Signs survey, 252 respondents

Second, and maybe more important, unlike XP and other Windows releases, the beta of Vista has taken much longer and involved many more people, most of whom, it seems, have posted highly critical commentaries online about the features, stability, security and nearly every other aspect of Vista. Interested end users have been deluged with negative litanies about Vista. These are scary to read and will become valuable ammunition for opponents of a Vista upgrade. It’s one thing for IT to face criticism from end users for changing the look and feel of their desktops after an operating system refresh. It’s another when the users can cite chapter and verse about widely discussed flaws.

Let’s take just one: networking. Symantec claims that changes to the networking stack could make Vista less stable and secure than (if you can believe it) XP. The security company has been finding flaws in Vista as fast as Microsoft can release builds to test. And its researchers have determined that Vista’s out-of-the-box support for peer-to-peer protocols and IPv6 will “play an increasing role in the delivery of malicious payloads.”

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