Those who have been anywhere near a technology magazine, newspaper section or Web site have been exposed to the hype and reaction surrounding the recent releases of Microsoft’s much-anticipated new operating system, Windows Vista.

After limited corporate release late last year, Windows Vista — Microsoft’s first major OS upgrade in five years — made its debut to all consumers Jan. 30. Two editions of the business version are available: Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Enterprise, which has extra capabilities for better data protection.

Windows Vista Business features built-in security features, an instant search option, system image backup and improved user account control. In addition to those features, Enterprise offers data protection, application compatibility and virtualization, and multilingual user interface (MUI).

Nicer, but necessary?
For business owners, it’s probably a good idea to start researching the pros and cons of upgrading. Many analysts, columnists and bloggers, however, don’t anticipate a big consumer rush to buy the new system.
Andy Barcus, a Davenport, Iowa-based IT consultant, agrees, saying there aren’t a lot of reasons for Vista to be a must-have anytime soon.

“The best advice I have comes down to one sentence: Unless there’s a feature that you need, that you can really take advantage of, and your computer’s working fine for you with the operating system it’s got, then there’s very little reason to change just to change,” Barcus says.

Getting Vista with a new computer when the time comes to purchase one will save upgrade headaches, he adds.

Users who don’t like change won’t have to right away. While the new system is certainly a step up from Windows XP or Windows 2000, XP will still be available in new computers for another year.

Consultant Helen Kennedy of Fremont, Calif., says waiting at least a few months to upgrade to Windows Vista is the prudent path for most businesses. The bugs that exist initially will be dealt with as customers find and report them.

“There’s a period of time where they’re refining the product after release and so it makes sense to me to wait a little while before upgrading,” Kennedy says. “But sooner or later, you have to, because all the computers are going to be bundled with Vista installed on them.”

Those interested in being on the cutting edge will enjoy Vista’s improvements, Barcus says, including new multimedia and security features. Businesses contemplating an operating system upgrade need to consider its compatibility with the software needed to run the business, he says.

“A lot of businesses are just using the standard Microsoft applications and those businesses are not going to have much trouble at all because Microsoft has extensively tested Vista with it’s current product line,” Barcus says, including Office 2003 and Office 2007, which was also just released. “So if you’re only using MS applications — Word, Excel, things like that — you’re going to be just fine.”

Many building service contractors use third-party software, but according to Barcus, it remains to be seen how such software will interact with the new system. Also, Barcus isn’t sure if anti-virus software will still be needed, and whether it will be compatible with Vista.

“I think in general most people running businesses are going to want to just kind of ride it out, see what happens, and if and when it’s definitely time to change to Vista, then they will,” Barcus says.