Early adopters might have headaches

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:40 pm

The anticipation of Microsoft Vista, Office 2007 and their complementary feature sets has many companies confused about when will be the right time to adopt the new technology. The hype before the product launches may have some companies wondering how they can afford the expense, while others may be thinking they cannot afford to wait to upgrade their computer systems if their competitors are taking the leap.

Local information technology (IT) experts say companies need to weigh their individual circumstances relating to their cash flow, their competition, their system requirements and their need for the enhanced system security that the new operating system will provide.

“Customers are talking to us about Vista, but not in terms of if they need it tomorrow,” said Paul Riedl, chief executive officer of Glendale-based River Run Computers Inc. “Customers want to know what it is, if they need it and why they should be planning for it.”

Volume licensing clients can take advantage of an early rollout at the end of November. Vista, Office 2007, Exchange Server 2007 and other Microsoft upgraded products will be available everywhere in January.

For companies considering upgrades to their existing computers, Riedl suggests that businesses make sure the time and expense for the upgrade has been considered. Upgrading an operating system is similar to buying a new computer. Files need to be transferred off of the desktop, saved in a safe place and then put back onto the desktop once the new operating system is installed.

There is time involved in working out bugs, making sure all of the programs are running correctly and in some cases retraining employees to work as productively with the new system as with the old.

“Ideally, a network has one operating system on all work stations,” Riedl said. “Now, fiscally responsibly, a business owner has to look and say, ‘Does it make sense to upgrade this equipment or wait to buy everything in one packageω’ My premise is, if a client does not need to upgrade a work station and doesn’t have to, then why do itω It would just be an expense the client may in essence not need.”

For companies that are looking to purchase new computers, Riedl’s suggestion is to wait until the new models have been sold with Vista already installed and the hardware has been tested, rather than buying a new computer now that may or may not be able to function with Vista later on.

“The stance we take when new software comes out is to see how it works in the marketplace for 30, 60 or 90 days,” Riedl said.

Scott Hirschfeld, vice president of Computer Technologies of Wisconsin Inc. in Elm Grove, is hosting a series of seminars to help explain Vista to customers and potential customers.

 “We focus on companies without an IT staff,” Hirschfeld said. “Our advice to business customers is, unless there is a feature a company is looking for, there is no overwhelming need to jump to a new operating system.”

Many companies will wait to purchase Vista until the first service pack is released, Hirschfeld said.

So far, his company’s seminars have received a high level of interest. The Nov. 14 seminar was sold out, and the Nov. 29 event is a near sellout, Hirschfeld said. The seminars last about two hours and include breakfast, a demo of Vista and a breakdown of its new features.

The seminars also address Office 2007, which may be of a higher priority for some of Hirschfeld’s clients.

“Office 2007 is a significant change from Office 2003, more so than the change from Windows XP to Vista,” Hirschfeld said.

One main distinction between Office 2003 and Office 2007 is the Ribbon Bar. The drop-down menus in Office 2003 are instead treated as tabs in Office 2007. The Ribbon Bar displays all of the options within the category of File, Edit, View, Insert, Format, Tools, Table, Windows and Help, so users can clearly see what they can do with the Word document without having to take multiple, well-informed steps to achieve a result.

One new feature is SmartArt, a series of options the user has to turn a bulleted list into a quantitative 3D chart or graph, add creative edges to inserted photos and choose from multiple templates for lists and presentations.

“On the surface, the Ribbon Bar tries to make it easy to find things,” said Brian Lewis, account technology specialist for Microsoft .NET. “The Ribbon Bar allows users to work easier and faster to increase productivity.”

About 80 percent of Office users use the same 20 percent of features, Hirschfeld said. The Ribbon Bar will be one feature of Office 2007 that will allow more users to take advantage of the capabilities of the application, Lewis said.

Charts in Word documents can be linked to Excel to create an Excel spreadsheet. And with a few data points, users can enhance documents with the conditional formatting feature, something that is available in Office 2003, but harder to find. Conditional formatting enables the user to have data on an automatic color slide. For instance, a revenue chart will color-code higher numbers with a green background, lower numbers with red and middle numbers with yellow.

Those features and certain features of Vista may convince companies to adopt early, IT experts say. Most computers made in the last few years are deemed Vista Capable, meaning they are capable of upgrading to Vista, but they will not be able to use some features, including Windows Aero, a graphical, 3D interface used to revolutionize the Windows Desktop into a more interactive space.

Consumers will have to buy a new computer or significantly upgrade the memory, wireless card, video capabilities and speed of their current machines to become Vista Ready and to be able to use all of the features.

Local IT experts say that Microsoft was supposed to release Vista nearly two years ago, but decided to go back into development to beef up the security.

The security features that come with Vista may make an early adoption almost necessary for companies needing to protect customer information and prevent employees from making networks vulnerable through downloads off of the Internet.

Corporate environments will most likely be attracted to the BitLocker Drive Encryption feature on Vista, Hirschfeld said.

“Security is definitely a draw,” Hirschfeld said. “The Aero interface is cool but is probably not a driving force for companies.”

The BitLocker gives users the ultimate security, because the user can encrypt the hard drive. With a mobile workforce, laptops and notebooks can easily be lost or stolen. In the case that the mobile device is accessed by another user, the user might be able to run the computer, but will not be able to gain access to personal files and server networks.

“We have several clients that are not bleeding edge in terms of technology but they are certainly cutting edge, and some features in Vista present them with nice options,” said Chris Miller, business development manager with Software One, a New Berlin-based software licensing firm. “One client is a financial institution that wants to take advantage of the data encryption piece available to enterprise users.”

Companies such as financial institutions are subject to different regulations and compliance statutes within their industry, and the BitLocker tool will enable them to move away from previously used third-party products that are more costly.

“If a business has security concerns and is planning an investment on bolstering security, then they might look at Vista as a clean, quick way to lock everything up,” said Paul Szews, chief executive officer of Marquette Technology Group LLC in Wauwatosa. “But if a business has key critical applications it relies on, like an engineering firm, Vista might be disruptive because the applications may not be compatible.”

The Microsoft license programs can be complex, particularly for small businesses, Miller said. Some corporate customers of Software One can have up to 16 different options.

Software One works with segments of partners to develop strategies for when a customer should adopt a new technology, Miller said.

Purchasing software assurance when buying a license agreement will help any company down the line if there is an upgrade to the application. Companies that have active license agreements and software assurance with Windows XP will be able to use the software assurance plan to upgrade to Vista, said Craig Gadberry, vice president of sales for Software One.

“Software assurance at its core is upgrade protection on individual products, but there are also a host of additional benefits available, including spreading payment options, problem and resolution support and training,” Miller said.

For companies concerned about purchasing Vista when it is available, whether in the form of volume licensing in November or individual purchases in January, the buyer has 90 days to purchase software assurance, Gadberry said. That way, if Vista comes out with a new version in a short period of time, the buyer is covered for the upgrade.

“With an operating system, the upgrade would be from XP Pro to Vista Business Edition, but with software assurance, buyers are entitled to Vista Enterprise Edition, which adds functionality and features, including BitLocker, multi-language capabilities and Virtual PC,” Miller said.

Hardware requirements for Vista
•    Current PCs upgrading to Vista need to be sure the computer is Vista Capable, meaning the system has:
-    800 MHz processor.
-    512 MB RAM.
-    DirectX 9 class graphics card.
-    Vista Capable computers will not be able to support Windows Aero.
•    A Vista Ready machine can fully utilize Vista and meets the following requirements:
-    1.0 GHz processor.
-    1 GB main memory.
-    Aero-compatible graphics card with at least 128 MB graphics memory.

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