Businesses make slow transition to Vista

Microsoft’s new operating system still working out the glitches


3D Corp. CEO Dave Koshinz has helped some businesses make the transition to Windows Vista, but he said most are staying — for the moment — with XP.


Microsoft’s view of its new operating system is as an essential upgrade to XP — Windows Vista is easier to use, saves time and is safer from hackers and data loss.

That sounds like typical marketing blather, but some local industry experts share that same view.

Dave Koshinz, CEO of 3D Corp., a Microsoft Gold Partner, upgraded his office computer to Vista in July and said the new operating system is superior to XP. It networks better, its user interface is more intelligent and Microsoft improved aspects of XP that were good ideas, but didn’t quite work right.

“It’s a pretty clean operating system,” he said. “There’s not an inherent problem with it.”

Ethan D’Onofrio, vice president of Northwest Computer, also upgraded his computer to Vista earlier this year, and likes the new interface with Microsoft Office 2007.

Both companies work on networks for businesses in Bellingham and beyond. So that means you should run out and buy Vista upgrades for your business now, right? Wrong.

“We’re not telling most of our business customers to go to Vista yet,” D’Onofrio said. “But there are some business environments where it makes sense.”

When Microsoft released Vista in January, D’Onofrio, who was on the Microsoft advisory council for Vista’s launch, said the software giant’s plan was to get the operating system out in the marketplace — the best way to test an operating system is to use it. Microsoft sold nearly double the amount of Vista licenses than XP in its first month of availability.

But few of those running Vista are businesses.

“Vista is going more to the consumer market right now,” Koshinz said.

Koshinz’s advice to his business clients has changed as Vista matures. Koshinz said that in March, he would not have advised anybody to switch to Vista. Now, he would suggest businesses look at the operating system to see if it would work in the office environment. In January 2008, Koshinz said he will tell clients to completely go with Vista unless there’s a compelling reason not to. Even then, businesses need to take into account many factors before upgrading.

“Ultimately they could spend a lot more in time and in paying somebody to get things working if they make a wrong choice,” he said.


Upgrading to Vista-friendly hardware

Upgrading to Vista takes more than buying disks and following directions on screen.

“Look at the whole environment that Vista is going to go into,” Koshinz said.

All too often, companies have not written Vista drivers for old peripherals. D’Onofrio said he cannot print to an old Hewlett-Packard printer in his office because it does not have a Vista driver, and he doesn’t expect the computer and printer giant to write one.

“It would appear HP is saying, ‘Come buy a new printer,’” he said. “HP has such a corner on the market, if companies need a new office printer, they buy a new HP. HP can do that.”

D’Onofrio added not all companies that make peripherals are following the same philosophy, but businesses need to look at what they have for compatibility.

Upgrading to Vista may mean more than buying new peripherals — both Koshinz and D’Onofrio recommended getting new computers for the new operating system.

“Don’t upgrade old hardware to Vista unless you have a really good reason, because odds are there will be issues,” Koshinz said.

Those issues come from a variety of sources. One is the same as peripherals — companies are not writing drivers for old hardware for Vista. But another is that Vista is a resource-hungry operating system. That means it needs more memory, more processor power and better video cards, for example. .

D’Onofrio said even a top-of-the-line machine built for XP a year ago may not have the resources needed for Vista. Now, Northwest Computers, which is a Microsoft Gold Partner and custom builds systems for home and business, sells a line of computers specifically to handle Vista’s needs. But Northwest Computers still offers new systems with XP.


Vista’s challenges with software

Another crack in Windows Vista is software compatibility, which Koshinz said is one of the main issues businesses need to look at when upgrading. Applications typically take longer to fully integrate into new operating systems, and he said specialized software can take much longer.

“With business applications you need to stay back or stay consistently current,” Koshinz said.

Part of that integration is having the ability to use older versions of a software.

Jessica Waggoner, administrator for the accounting firm Varner Sytsma & Herndon, said the firm recently purchased several new computers with XP instead of Vista. The main reason is the firm uses QuickBooks 2005, which is not compatible with Vista.

If Varner Sytsma & Herndon upgraded their computers to Vista and QuickBooks 2007, Waggoner said the firm’s clients would have to follow.

“We don’t go around to our clients and say you have to upgrade every year,” Waggoner said.

At some point, Waggoner said, Varner Sytsma & Herndon will switch to Vista, but that timeline is unknown. Even when the firm switches, she said it will still have some XP systems to accommodate clients, unless QuickBooks makes a patch that allows older versions to run on Vista.

Large businesses will take longer to switch than smaller, Koshinz said. Some of 3D’s larger clients still run Windows 2000 because of the massive effort it would take to change and upgrade the number of computers and software.

“Smaller businesses are a little less tied into their applications,” he said


A view of the future

The Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce is working toward switching to Vista. President Ken Oplinger started using Vista this summer when he got a new laptop, and loves the new operating system. The chamber has since bought all the software, but is now looking at hardware issues — most of the computers in the office will have to be upgraded.

Oplinger said he has not heard much from the business community about Vista, but what he has heard has been positive. He said once Microsoft releases the first service pack, more people will switch.

“I think a lot of people are a little leery of the first release,” he said.

Microsoft has been mum on when it will release the service pack, but D’Onofrio expects it to come out sometime this fall, and said it should make the transition to Vista easier.

D’Onofrio pointed to the progress made since Microsoft released XP, such as Vista has built-in error reporting, so Microsoft is aware of bugs and incompatibilities as the system is used.

Patches and fixes will be put into the first service pack. After XP’s first service pack, D’Onofrio said, consumers gained some confidence in the operating system. But he said the second service pack made it a reliable operating system. He expects the same pattern with Vista.

But Microsoft has also extended the availability and support of XP from Jan. 1, 2008 to June 30, 2008. D’Onofrio said the extension is a good move from Microsoft considering the general anxiety about Vista.

Technology is continuously improving, making upgrades a way of life for any business that uses a computer. Vista’s flashy interface may be a vision of the future, but before looking to Vista, you might want to wait until the view improves.

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