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Buena Vista?

After countless delays, Microsoft finally unveils its new computer operating system. Also in In Tech this month: A way to remember all those passwords.

The migration from XP to Windows Vista may not be painless, however — particularly for early adopters. A number of tech analysts believe the bevy of new features in the new OS may trigger some old problems. Certainly, it’s no mortal lock that Windows Vista will play well with other enterprise applications. Cautions Cherry: “The reality is that some of these changes [in the OS] will impact how existing software runs with Windows Vista.”

At the very least, key business applications, as well as programs like antispamming and virus-detection and –removal software, will have to be carefully checked for Windows Vista compatibility. An ERP client application, for example, may require that the user have administrator privileges. In that case, the ERP app must be upgraded to work with Windows Vista’s User Account Control feature. “With Windows Vista waiting, business users need to get a firm handle on all of their assets,” advises Steve Kleynhans, a vice president of research and client computing at technology research firm Gartner. “That [assessment] includes applications, management processes, and hardware.”

Muscle, Memory

Hardware could be a sticking point. The truth is, a whole lot of corporate computers will probably not pass muster in a Windows Vista universe. Microsoft states that the new OS requires, at bare minimum, a PC with an 800MHz processor and 512MB of memory. To achieve acceptable performance in the real world, a computer running Windows Vista will require a 1GHz processor, 1GB of memory, and a 40GB hard drive — well beyond what many small and midsize businesses currently employ. On top of that, a PC will need a high-powered graphics card with at least 128MB of dedicated RAM to fully exploit Windows Vista’s snazzy graphical user interface. “With the new user interface,” says Golightly, “the graphics processor in your machine could become as important as the CPU.”

The bulked-up hardware requirements may see some customers passing on Windows Vista, at least early on. Industry watchers predict that scores of businesses will not switch to the OS until they buy new computers. Typically, such purchases are tied to the release of substantially more-powerful machines. Many businesses, for example, bought new desktops and servers this year because of the arrival of dual-core processors. Says Joe Wilcox, a senior analyst at JupiterResearch: “Unfortunately for Microsoft, Windows Vista is being released on the wrong side of a major upgrade cycle.”

The software giant will also have to work hard to soothe concerns about purchasing first-generation technology. The fact is, Windows Vista is such a leap from XP that some customers may simply wait for any kinks in the OS to be ironed out. Notes Jim Murphy, a research director at AMR Research, “Many businesses believe, based on past experience, that early iterations of Windows Vista will present too many stability and security risks.”

Those worries don’t seem to phase Golightly. Despite the many merits of XP, he remains bullish on Windows Vista. “It’s just too compelling to resist,” he says. “I’m planning to upgrade as soon as it’s released.”

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