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Microsoft customers don't have a clear view of Vista

The next version of Windows has gone from the code name Longhorn to the product name Windows Vista. Few other details about the new client operating system are as concrete.

Microsoft's new client operating system -- long known by the code name Longhorn -- will begin its trial phase by Aug. 3, and with a new name. Now dubbed Windows Vista, the software still has enough questions surrounding it to keep many IT shops from getting too interested in it in the near term.

Microsoft experts and customers have low expectations for Windows Vista, which was rebranded at a private sales event Thursday, the details of which were released Friday morning. Because Microsoft's definition of a beta has changed in the past few years, it is unclear how feature-rich the first test will be, but many doubt it will include all the capabilities Microsoft has alluded to for the final release.

Microsoft has given experts no indication as to how complete the initial beta will be, said Michael Cherry, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash., consulting firm. "I tell customers that whatever they ship this month, it won't be interesting until they see what the builds are at the [Professional Developers Conference] in September," he said.

Hardware requirements still unknown

Another issue is that there is no information yet about what type of hardware will be required for Windows Vista. Hardware vendors can't really address this until Microsoft publishes something and launches a formal program, said Steve Kleynhans, a consultant at Gartner Inc., in Stamford, Conn.

"Realistically, it's far enough out that it's not a huge problem yet, but by 2006, we expect to have a Longhorn program in place for hardware," he said.

Microsoft has said that any standard PC purchased today will run Vista. The question is whether it will run Vista as a basic user experience or as a high-end experience. The difference between the two will involve the graphics card and the "Aero" glass effect, which is Microsoft's name for the feature that allows for semi-transparent windows from which a user can view another window.

"Most corporate users will be fine if they are not buying [hardware] at the bottom [end of the scale] and are choosing something mainstream," Kleynhans said.

XP, Server 2003 still good enough for many

Many IT executives are happy to stick with Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. "[Windows Vista] is hardly discussed," said Paul Theisen, an IT director for the Tech Group, a global manufacturing organization that creates products for health care and consumer-products companies.

"Our infrastructure is like oxygen and it's more than sufficient," he said. "What we look for is a second service pack."

There are always some early adopters anxious to dig in, however. Matthew Hansberger, director of Wintel technology at Pacific Life Insurance Co., in Newport Beach, Calif., will be one of the IT executives wanting to check out Vista right away.

"We will look at the value of it from a production standpoint," he said. "I'm looking for improved clustering. One of the challenges that companies face since 9/11 is disaster recoverability, so we are looking for more functionality there."

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