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Maine To Skip Vista, Go Directly To Windows 7

A document obtained by InformationWeek reveals that the state is the latest organization to shun the most current version of Microsoft's flagship operating system.

In a troubling sign for Microsoft's key Windows franchise, businesses and government agencies continue to snub the latest version of the operating system, Vista, despite the fact that it's been on the market for almost two years and has been significantly upgraded via a full service pack meant to solve a range of performance issues.

The ongoing shunning of Vista is even more surprising given that its predecessor -- Windows XP -- is, for the most part, no longer even on the market.

The latest organization likely to forgo Vista? The state of Maine.

In an internal report on the state's computing environment, obtained Friday by InformationWeek, Maine IT officials note that Windows Vista is not in their plans. "For the desktop operating system, the state will likely skip Windows Vista and leapfrog directly to Windows 7," the report notes. It was published on Sept. 15.

The report says that Maine's standard desktop environment currently consists of Windows XP, Service Pack 3, Microsoft Office 2003, and Internet Explorer 7.

In an interview Friday, Maine CIO Richard Thompson said that, among other things, state officials are concerned about Vista's horsepower requirements -- the OS needs considerably more processing power and memory than XP to run properly on PCs and laptops. Additionally, its new kernel-level security features can make it difficult for organizations to convert apps built for previous versions of Windows.

"We understand that it requires significant resources," said Thompson. "We had devices that were old enough to still be running Windows 98."

More than anything, however, Maine's decision not to deploy Vista is a timing issue. "We're updating our infrastructure, so that when we do something like this we can make it universal. We were worried that, by the time we get that done, a move to Vista would be just prior to the next jump," said Thompson, referring to Microsoft's plans to release Windows 7 in 2010.

Thompson said Maine, for the first time in its history, recently signed an enterprise software license with Microsoft that will cover upgrades for the state's 11,500 laptops, desktops, and other personal computing devices. He added that the state has "a good relationship" with the software maker.

Maine is far from alone in its likely decision to skip Vista, which was launched amid considerable hoopla in January 2007. The majority of large businesses and government agencies in the United States, and internationally, have concluded that Vista's steep hardware requirements and difficulty handling older software are not worth any benefits that might be achieved by upgrading from XP, which was officially retired by Microsoft in June.

A survey released earlier this week by the United Kingdom's Corporate IT Forum showed that only 4% of businesses in that country are using Windows Vista on workplace systems, while 35% said they were "not yet interested" in Vista. Fifty-eight percent said they were still using Windows XP.

Microsoft is hoping Windows 7 will receive a better reception. In an effort to burnish Windows' reputation and pave the way for the next version, the company recently launched a $300 million ad campaign starring Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Gates, and a host of ordinary PC users.

Microsoft, however, has warned that Windows 7 and Vista share the same basic architecture. As a result, applications that aren't compatible with Vista likely won't run on Windows 7, either.

Vista's problems have opened the door for software produced by Microsoft's rivals. Apple has seen its Mac OS enjoy significant market-share gains in recent months, while Google has been making headway with its hosted Google Apps e-mail and productivity software -- particularly in the price-sensitive government market. Washington, D.C., for instance, is in the midst of an effort convert the bulk of its desktop software to Google Apps.

Linux, the free, open source OS, is also drawing longer looks as the economy sags. Thompson said Maine is "studying everything we can today, including open source, to see what we can do to contain costs."

Shares of Microsoft were up 2.13% to $26.81 in early trading Friday as the Nasdaq looked to rebound from heavy losses earlier in the week.

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