Gov’t Agencies Banning Vista

Even Microsoft has always expected large organizations, businesses, and enterprises will take a while to convert from Windows XP (or, um, Windows 2000…or,um, Windows NT), and many industry figures have put the timeframe for mainstream business migration to Windows Vista anywhere from 18 to 30 months after the operating system’s release. (That was in November, 2006 for business clients, January 2007 for everyone else.) After all, these organizations have to evaluate how the operating system will interoperate with their existing computing infrastructures, train their IT staffs and users, determine whether Vista is compatible with existing software, and whether Vista poses any sort of security risk to confidential or proprietary data.

But Microsoft probably hadn’t expected Federal agencies to outright ban the use of Windows Vista.

The influential National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has become the latest Federal agency to bar the use of Windows Vista, according to agency documents disclosed to a handful of media outlets. The revelation comes a week after PC publication InformationWeek disclosed the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration had barred the use of Windows Vista, along with Microsoft Office 2007 and Internet Explorer 7—all flagship Microsoft products.

Chief among federal agencies’ concerns about the new operating system and software is backward compatibility with other programs, including earlier versions of Windows. Other factors include Vista upgrade costs, security, and training requirements, along with scheduling and logistical issues unrelated to Vista. (For instance, the Department of Transportation is moving to a new location in Washington D.C. later this year.) Many federal agencies have transitioned key applications to Web-based platforms, which makes upgrading a desktop operating system a less-pressing need for many organizations. Some industry watchers speculate that government agencies will begin embracing Vista as they retire older systems, but support ad hoc Vista installations creeping into the organizations, and won’t rush to embrace the operating system.

However, it’s possible some agencies may forego Vista entirely. The FAA’s chief information officer Dave Bowen told InformationWeek the FAA might opt for Linux-based systems running Google Apps.