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Windows Vista hardware: Investing now or later

To provide your customers with quality products and services, you want the computers you select for them to be as useful for as long as possible. But it doesn't help your bottom line to integrate the latest and greatest, overpriced workstation hardware. So should you be pushing Windows Vista and its associated hardware purchases now or later? Brien Posey offers his take on the current IT market transition period and why Vista needs to be on your radar now.

Right now the IT industry is in a transitional period, the likes of which has not been seen for over a decade. There is a gradual shift going on from 32-bit to 64-bit systems, and the release of Windows Vista is just a few months away. The purchasing decisions you help customers make today could affect your company for years to come. As such, it is important to understand this transition that is occurring and to make intelligent purchasing decisions based on that knowledge.

Not since late 1994 have we seen such a transition, when Pentium processors became available just prior to a Windows 95 release. At the time, a lot of people were saying there was no need for Windows 95, that Windows 3.11 was perfectly fine. Others were saying that Windows 95 was marketing hype and that its extreme hardware requirements (8 MB of RAM) would doom it to failure.

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Much to the naysayers' dismay and in spite of its hardware requirements, Windows 95 was a success. Microsoft based several additional operating systems -- Windows 98, 98 SE and ME -- on Windows 95 technology, and Windows NT 4.0 adopted the Windows 95 user interface.

Nowadays, the transition revolves around 64-bit and dual-core processors gaining in popularity, while Microsoft prepares it's next great operating system, which, not surprisingly, is being touted as an impractical, marketing ploy with outlandish hardware requirements. Sound familiar?

In spite of what you might think about Windows Vista, it is destined to become the dominant operating system. It may take a long time for a lot of companies to phase out Windows XP in favor of Vista, but there are several factors that ensure Vista's success.

1. Consumer market: As soon as Vista is released, most PCs sold to consumers will come pre-loaded with Windows Vista.

2. Volume licensing: Many companies will initially shy away from Vista because of upgrading costs -- unless they have volume licensing agreements in place that may entitle them to receive Vista at no additional charge. Vista will probably be the obvious choice for new hardware acquisitions.

3. 64-bit allure: What will really drive companies to adopt Vista is the switch to 64-bit computing. As 64-bit applications become more common, companies are going to have to invest in 64-bit hardware and 64-bit operating systems to take advantage of those applications. Granted, there are 64-bit versions of Windows XP, but 64-bit device drivers for Windows XP are hard to come by right now. Vista, however, comes loaded with 64-bit device drivers. The device driver issue may be enough to make companies run Vista on their 64-bit workstations rather than using the 64-bit version of Windows XP.

I predict Vista will become the dominant operating system, just as Windows XP is today. If you are thinking of eventually deploying Vista in your customers' shops, make sure that the hardware that you are integrating will be sufficient for running Vista.

About the author: Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for his work with Windows 2000 Server and IIS. He has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once in charge of IT security for Fort Knox. He writes regularly for and other TechTarget sites.

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