Vista depends on how you look at it


19 Feb 2007

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VISTA: Microsoft Word’s dictionary defines vista as: (a ) a scenic or panoramic view; (b) a view seen through a long narrow opening, for example between rows of trees or buildings; or (c) a mental picture covering a wide range of objects or a long succession of events in the past or future.

Years in the making, Microsoft will be hoping that the main vista opening up for its memory-hungry new operating system will be into expansive cash rich business markets.

Vista, of course, comes with a lot of new bells and whistles. Visibly, it looks different and after playing with it for a while it feels different as well.

That’s not to say that the bells and whistles are just ornamental trinkets attached on the whim of a fanciful
programmer.

Microsoft makes the claim that the new interface improves productivity by allowing better visualisation of data and presenting a more professional appearance. What we can tell you about Vista is that it’s not your father’s Windows with probably the biggest leap aesthetically since 3.1 morphed into 95.

Training companies throughout Ireland will undoubtedly be rubbing their hands at the thought of the considerable retraining of users and IT professionals.

Having said all that, what’s in it for you, the SME? Why should you migrate from your beloved XP, or (gasp!) something older, to Vista?

According to Mike Hughes (pictured), business manager for Windows at Microsoft, one of the main reasons for upgrading to Vista is the search capabilities and the way it’s easier to find information.

“I recently saw a study that said people spend on average about ?14,000 a year in wasted work time looking for documents or regenerating ones that already exist but they couldn’t put their hands on,” says Hughes.

“The way Vista and Office have been designed they’re just completely focused around search and the ability to find information. So from the minute you press the start button search appears and you can search across documents, apps, email and the internet.

“And it indexes everything on your hard drive so your time spent finding things is really reduced,” he adds.

Microsoft is also trumpeting the security aspect of Vista and claims it’s the most locked down version of Windows yet. And while some reviews in the US seem a bit sceptical about how good its defences are, it remains to be seen if this system will require as much patching as XP did.

“We expect it to have a lot less updates than XP. It takes something such as the technology in Service Pack 2 to a different level and the result for the end user means less updates and the operating will be less vulnerable from viruses, spyware and malicious software attacks,” says Hughes.

With so many companies underlining productivity in their agenda, Microsoft has seen fit to make this one of the main angles in Vista and Office. “With laptops, for example, Vista will help them save more power and connect to a wireless internet connection more easily, for instance in a hotel.

As for Office, Hughes said 2007 is a very different looking product. “The key thing we found with the last version of Office was that as we added more functionality it became difficult for people to find the functionality that was already in the product. So Office 2007 exposes that functionality.

“We have a ribbon bar that runs along the top of the screen and it’s designed to expose functionality. So if you’re working on a spreadsheet it can guess what you are going to do next and present you with choices of what you want to do. So the dropdown menu has gone away and what you have now are tabbed sheets.

“And in PowerPoint we’ve included built-in diagrams so presentations can be done on the fly. Basically we wanted to make the tech as invisible as possible in Vista and Office, so it’s removing the distance between what the information worker wants to do and what they have to do and try to make the steps in between as few as possible.”

So how to upgrade? The software giant has been offering upgrades to Vista since the end of October. Any new machines bought in the past couple of months would have a coupon to allow the user to upgrade to Vista at the end of January. You may get a free upgrade or you may have to pay depending what version of the operating system you bought.

If you’re sitting on an older machine you’d need to make sure it can take the software, go to microsoft.com/vista and the applications there will tell you whether the machine can run it or not.

If you’ve bought a machine in the past year you should be okay.

By Neil Dillon

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