Competitors' Take On Vista - InformationWeek
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04:10 PM

Competitors' Take On Vista

Options exist, from Google's spreadsheet to open source apps to Web services and Mac OS X.

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Making a desktop application suite like Office 2007 the company standard for all employees can actually drain productivity, contends David Girouard, VP and general manager of Google's Enterprise group. Increasingly, employees favor apps they discover on their own. "You can't force-feed people to use products that IT departments think are good but that employees wouldn't choose to use themselves," he says. Google offers alternatives like its Docs & Spreadsheets combo, in beta testing now. Says Girouard, "There are a lot more options out there."

Vista's built-in security isn't enough. "Microsoft is solving yesterday's problems," says Oliver Friedrichs, director of Symantec Security Response. "People need to look at more forward-looking solutions that help protect against crimeware, rootkits, and today's and tomorrow's threats."

It's a mistake to depend on Microsoft for both the operating system and its security. "It's a fox watching the henhouse," says George Heron, VP and chief scientist at McAfee.

The launch of Vista, Office 2007, and Exchange 2007 is a "revenue event" for Microsoft, says Joel Berman, Red Hat's product management director. Red Hat charges a yearly fee of $80 per user for desktop Linux, which includes the Firefox browser, document creation, e-mail, and instant messaging. Upgrades and support are included, too. Simply put, IT departments don't have to invest in improvements. "With Microsoft, if you decide you want to move to something else, you have all this stuff you have to throw away," says Berman. "There's an exit cost."

Office 2007 is more than most people need, and much of what's there doesn't have to run on a PC. Some apps, such as video editing, demand the power of a desktop, concedes Google's Girouard. On the other hand, "there's a lot of cases where having applications and data in the cloud makes a lot more sense," he says. Collaboration applications come to mind. What's more, as more people want to remotely access apps using a multiplicity of devices with varying operating systems, it makes more sense to have them centrally stored and accessible by Web browser.

Remember the thin client. Sun Microsystems' answer to the Microsoft desktop is Sun Ray. "It's a good time to rethink thin-client computing," says Larry Wake, group manager of the Solaris operating system. "Companies should ask, 'Do I want to go through this humongous transition to Vista, or do I want to take this huge investment and do something a lot smarter, more secure, and easier to maintain?'" Thin-client computing is inherently more secure, Wake says. "It's a wild and wooly environment where people can walk in and take out what they want" on portable devices, he says.

No force-feeding, please, Girouard says

No force-feeding, please, Girouard says
Vista is prettier than Windows XP but not much better. Ken Bisconti, VP of product marketing at IBM Lotus, notes that Microsoft scrapped plans for Vista's WinFS unified storage system. "Vista's been whittled down to some new UI that's substandard to what Apple's got," Bisconti says. "There really is no net new business value that justifies the hardware and operating costs of an upgrade just to get Vista."

Proprietary software is the old way of doing things. Lotus' instant messaging application, Sametime 7.5 (in testing now), and Notes 8 (due in mid 2007) were built with the open source Eclipse development tools, so companies can more easily integrate them with other applications. The open source model continues to gain mainstream appeal. "Microsoft would respond that you could build portals with .Net, but there are many times you can get wrapped around the axle and find technologies only work with Internet Explorer or [Microsoft] apps," Lotus' Bisconti says.

Vista is but an imitation of Mac OS X. Apple execs point to the search capabilities (Apple Spotlight was first), Internet Explorer's RSS reader (Safari RSS was first), and Windows Calendar (iCal was first). "Our friends up north spend over $5 billion a year on R&D, and yet these days all they seem to be able to do is to try to copy Google and Apple," CEO Steve Jobs said in August at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference.

Microsoft's improved search pales in comparison to Google's. Google sells an enterprise search appliance in addition to its Web search engine. "There are a lot of capabilities layered on, including security and access to all sorts of data systems," Girouard says. "The idea is to unlock all that experience of"

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