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Windows Vista's 90-Day Report Card

Microsoft's new operating system hasn't revealed any gaping security holes, but some influential users are holding back for other reasons.

Ninety days after its release to business customers, Windows Vista has cleared the first hurdle--no serious security flaws, so far. But it has stumbled badly on the second--user acceptance--as two big government agencies shun Microsoft's new operating system for other reasons.

It's too early to tell whether Vista will be a big hit or a dud, but it's beginning to look like a long adoption phase. Only two weeks after the consumer release of Vista on Jan. 31, CEO Steve Ballmer advised Wall Street to cool its expectations. "We're driving it hard," Ballmer said in a Feb. 15 presentation to financial analysts. "But I think some people have gotten a little overexcited."

CIO (and pilot) Bowen may ground Microsoft software

CIO (and pilot) Bowen may ground Microsoft software
Ballmer's warning proved prescient. Two weeks later, InformationWeek learned of a memo written by Daniel Mintz, CIO of the U.S. Department of Transportation, that placed "an indefinite moratorium" on upgrades to Vista, citing "no compelling technical or business case for upgrading."

About the same time, the Federal Aviation Administration--which is part of the DOT but managed separately--put a freeze on Vista upgrades. CIO David Bowen says he may drop Microsoft's PC software, Office included, in favor of Linux-based PCs and Google's new online business applications. Among other problems, Bowen says Lotus Notes didn't work properly when tested on Vista. "When you consider the incompatibilities and the fact that we haven't seen much in the way of documented business value, we felt that we needed to do a lot more study," Bowen says.

Microsoft can't take lightly the decision by two major federal customers with a total of 60,000 PC users to sidestep what's usually a well-worn path to the next Windows operating system. And a successful implementation of Google Apps by a big agency like the FAA would be a cue to CIOs elsewhere to consider that alternative themselves.

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Microsoft is diplomatic about the snubbing. "Every organization has its own process for adopting software," says Shanen Boettcher, general manager of Windows client product management.

Hardware and software compatibility are among the concerns voiced by would-be Vista adopters. Parts manufacturer Quality Trailer Products pushed back its Vista deployment plans after experiencing compatibility issues during testing. "We took a good long look at it and figured it would be awhile before we do anything more with it," VP of IT Carl Weddle says. The company has a few 1980s-era terminal emulators that work fine with XP, but not at all with Vista.

Application compatibility is a factor at the Transportation Department. A number of applications and utilities in use there aren't Vista-compatible, according to a memo issued by the DOT's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. They include releases of Aspen, Capri, ISS, and ProVu applications.

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