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5/9/2007
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FAA Memo Reveals Concern Over Windows Vista Hardware Specs

The internal memo notes that Vista requires double the amount of memory the agency usually uses on desktops and warns staffers to watch out for Microsoft sales pitches.

An internal memo from top technology officials at the Federal Aviation Administration cites Windows Vista's hardware requirements as a major reason why the government agency may pass on upgrading its computer systems to Microsoft's widely-hyped new operating system.

The memo, which was authored just prior to Windows Vista's commercial release at the end of January, notes that Vista requires "twice the memory ...than that currently specified in the FAA Desktop standard configuration."

It also points out that the operating system, Microsoft's successor to Windows XP, needs "a faster processor" and graphics cards that are also beyond the hardware specifications of PCs used by the FAA.

Microsoft recommends that business editions of Windows Vista run atop computers with at least a 1-GHz processor, 1 Gbyte of system memory, and a 40-Gbyte hard drive with 15 Gbytes of free space.

The memo, dated January 26, 2007, was issued and hand signed by FAA CIO Dave Bowen and VP for acquisition and business services James Washington. A copy of the memo was obtained Wednesday by InformationWeek.

It reinforces comments made by Bowen in a March interview with InformationWeek. At the time, Bowen said he might permanently bypass upgrading the FAA's 45,000 desktops to Windows Vista and is instead considering migrating workers at the agency to PCs running a combination of Linux and Google's online Google Apps productivity tools.

The memo also warns tech staffers at the FAA to be on guard against heavy sales pitches from Microsoft during the initial rollout period for Windows Vista. "We anticipate that this introduction will be accompanied by significant advertising hype and salesperson activity," the document states.

Hardware requirements aren't the FAA's only concerns about Microsoft's new desktop software environment.

The memo further notes that the Internet Explorer 7.0 Web browser is not compatible with many of the FAA's Web applications and that Microsoft Office 2007's Open Document Format won't work with the FAA's Lotus Notes e-mail software.

Citing the concerns, the memo orders various units within the FAA to "refrain from acquiring Microsoft's Vista operating system and Office 2007 products when they become available at the end of January."

It urges them to "continue to order Microsoft's XP operating system and Office 2003, the current FAA standards."

Windows Vista is proving to be a tough sell for Microsoft within some government agencies. NASA and the Department of Transportation have also put a hold on upgrading to the OS due to cost and compatibility concerns.

In a meeting last month with IT professionals at Microsoft's Redmond, WA campus, CEO Steve Ballmer rejected an assertion by a NASA computer scientist that Vista has been banned by most sectors of the federal government. "Vista has been anything but banned from most parts of the U.S. federal government," Ballmer said, adding that he anticipated near-term adoption in "a number" of government accounts. He stopped short, however, of naming any government agencies that are in the process of deploying Vista or are about to do so.

Other Microsoft officials said they're confident that agencies like the FAA will upgrade to Vista once their current PCs become outdated. "In the past 18 months, the vast majority of PCs sold met or exceeded the minimum requirements [for running Windows Vista], so many organizations should already have a sizeable portion of the desktop environment that is more than ready," said Microsoft product manager Mike Burk.

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