Thursday, November 09, 2006

Microsoft has had a busy few days

Well, Microsoft seems to have had a busy few days this week.

On Monday the 6th November, 2006, Microsoft released the next version of Office to manufacture - Office 2007. Office 2007 is a rather revolutionary rework of the old office suite. In all but Outlook, gone is the old Toolbar that was, well, confusing at best and in comes their "Ribbon" which is a context sensitive replacement. The Ribbon takes a little getting used to, but once you have, I can probably bet a critical body part that you won't want to go back to the old toolbar.

There's still a few issues - they have kept the same silly interface in Excel that doesn't exist in Word - in other words, whereas in Word you can open multiple documents in separate windows, all Excel spreadsheets still exist in the one containing window. I have no idea why they didn't fix this inconsistence whilst they were rewriting the Office suite. Outlook has retained the old Toolbar look, because - according to Microsoft - the new Ribbon is inappropriate for Outlook users. (When creating an email, the Ribbon appears, but the main Outlook interface contains no Ribbon. One thing Microsoft is consistent about is inconsistency.) Well, I disagree and you may well disagree, but that's the way it has been released.

Then, Microsoft released Vista to manufacture yesterday (8th Nov, 2006). Whilst Vista is an improvement over Windows XP SP2 in a number of areas - and so it should be, there's been 2 totally missed releases by the Windows Desktop Operating System teams since Windows XP was released back in 2001 - it still has a long way to go. There are still a number of issues that are seen in the RC2 release (I've not seen the final release yet) that I reported during the Beta process. Yes, unfixed issues. Silly, frustrating issues. Like trying to browse to a mapped network drive in some File Open boxes resulting in an error stating that "Internet addresses are not allowed". Since when was "P:\" an Internet address?

So, I'm currently still - unfortunately - not impressed with Vista. I can see what Microsoft is trying to do, and this is good. The problem is the way they have implemented a lot of the things they are trying to achieve is less than good. I have NO IDEA why Microsoft didn't look at Linux until recently, but the way limited user access is implemented in Linux is at least an order of magnitude more appropriate than Microsoft has managed to fumble into Vista.

Is Vista going to be a good thing? Yes, I think it is. Will it take until Vista SP1 for this to happen? Yes, I think it may. Will I be using and recommending Vista to our clients? Depends. We'll be using it internally (like we have been for quite a while now) and recommending it to clients who we think will benefit from its deployment.

Speaking of deployment, the OS deployment functionality in Vista is one of its major advantages for medium to large businesses - the need for multiple SOE images is drastically reduced. If you have a good grasp of GPO or use something like SMS to deploy applications, then Vista will be a dream come true for you - at least as far as deployment and application installation goes.

The new Application Compatibility Toolkit will help here quite a bit, too. And Microsoft's recent acquisition of Desktop Standard, Softricity and Sysinternals/Winternals will bring added benefits to those who have Software Assurance on their Windows XP Pro/Vista deployments.

All up, Office 2007 is really, really nice and Vista has the potential to be, if Microsoft keeps developing it and getting it ready for use (even though they have already released it).


The Outspoken Wookie