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Monday, February 12, 2007

Windows Vista And Office 2007: Pros And Cons Of Upgrading - The Becta Report

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Few weeks have passed since Microsoft has officially launched Vista, its new operating system, and Office 2007, the latest release of the popular suite of productivity tools installed on most office computers around the world.

Image credit: Windows Vista Package

Nonetheless the short time since Microsoft recent releases, a great number of doubts and questions have emerged from the large crowd of Microsoft users, who are in many cases still not sure of whether to enter the "new Microsoft era" or wait until these new software products reach a higher degree of reliability.

Some bloggers and experts have welcomed the new Microsoft children with enthusiasm, but others consider the release of these new products a faux pas, which may lead many users to consider switching to alternative operating systems (Mac, Linux).

If you are a Microsoft Windows user, how can you then find out whether it is best to go with the Microsoft excitement and everyone else who is installing these new softwares or to take a different stance and change direction altogether. Are Microsoft new releases worth upgrading? Who can really benefit and who can't?

Here is something that may help you find out:

Becta, the UK Government's lead partner in the strategic development and delivery of information and communication technology for the schools and the learning sector, recently released a report whose main goal was to analyze the characteristics of Windows Vista and Office 2007 and provide institutions with the information they need to have before deciding whether to adopt the brand new Microsoft products.

The report starts with the analysis of the additional functionalities provided by Windows Vista and Office 2007 - compared to the previous products - and proceeds with the picturing of the current information technology situation within educational institutions.

Most of these organizations do not seem to be ready to switch completely to the new Microsoft products, because of the kind of hardware they own and the high expenses they should face if they were to upgrade it.

Moreover, the new Office 2007 formats seem to be incompatible with many other online productivity suites - in particular the open-source office suites - which is a condition that creates interoperability issues and open the doors to a new form of "digital divide".

I have spent some time reading the interesting report released by Becta, which nonetheless is targeted mostly at the educational sector, has wise advice to spare also for those in commercial organizations as well as for many professionals and small businesses.

Everything seems to rotate around the crucial question: is it really worth upgrading to Windows Vista and Office 2007?

To help you answer this critical question I summarized for you the key findings of the Becta report dividing them in two sections. One for Vista and one for Office 2007. Here is some data that might help you along the way:

Windows Vista


According to Becta, the Vista operating system has been significantly enhanced with key advantages in the areas of accessibility and security. For the education sector, the key issues regarding the functionality in Vista that emanated from the analysis were the following:

Additional functionality

  • Some (27%) of the added features are available without the cost and effort of upgrading from Windows XP to Vista (including some such as IE7 and Windows Media Player which are free of charge).
  • Many useful functions of the Vista operating system (for example: Media Center functionality and security tools such as Bitlocker) are not in widespread use in the education sector.
  • The impact of digital rights management on authentication and authorization infrastructures needs to be evaluated further.
  • The benefits of adopting the Vista Aero interface are questionable, since most information and communication technology- based learning now takes place in applications (i.e. browsers) and on the Web, not at the operating-system level.
  • A key driver for the uptake of Vista in education may be the move by producers of education software away from the current 32-bit technology to adopt the more powerful 64-bit technology - this process is, however, still far from being taken in consideration.

Current situation within organizations

According to Becta, over half of the current educational infrastructure could not run Windows Vista even with the Aero graphics engine turned off and virtually none of the current infrastructure could run Vista with Aero switched on. The version of Windows XP generally agreed to be the most stable is the one that became available with the release of Service Pack 2 in August 2004, three years after the launch of the product. Windows Vista, on the other hand, is a wholly new operating system; it seems reasonable therefore not to adopt Vista until it has a demonstrably stable track record.


The costs of deployment are also a fundamental issue: the Vista license is not the only expense to take in consideration, as institutions would also need to upgrade their hardware and make it compatible with the new operating system. This procedure would also involve paying staff to set up hardware and install the necessary software, let alone the need to train users to use a completely new operating system.


Becta states that the new features of Vista add value but do not justify early deployment in the educational information and communication technology field. Any institution willing to adopt Vista should ensure that it has carefully considered the above mentioned issues, including the technical, financial, and organizational implications. On the other hand, Microsoft should promote activities and demonstrations to clarify what would be the benefits of deploying Vista and what level of costs the deployment would generate.

Office 2007


The Office 2007 product was evaluated by Becta from the perspective of additional functionality, current software used within organizations, and costs of deployment.

Additional functionality

  • Office 2007 was very stable when running on Windows XP, and most of the evaluation was carried out on this platform. Windows XP would thus be a suitable platform for Office 2007 and indeed for any of the competitor products evaluated.
  • Of the 176 new features of Office 2007 identified, many are considered to be of more use to a business than to an educational institution.

Current software used within organizations

Most office applications in use are already Office 2000, Office XP or Office 2003. There is therefore a tiny difference among these earlier versions regarding the design of the user interface (UI). However, with Office 2007, Microsoft introduces a brand new user interface for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook, but there is no 'classic' mode that users can switch to - therefore it is not possible to revert to the earlier UI.

In case different Office versions were utilized (which could occur, for example, when educational
institutions purchase new computers with Office 2007 pre-installed), this would likely cause usability issues as users will be faced with different UIs depending on which machine they are using.


It is not necessary to run Vista in order to deploy Office 2007. Computers already running Microsoft Office 2003 should not need any hardware upgrade. The most significant requirement is to be running Windows XP with Service Pack 2 or higher. As for Vista, costs for purchasing new hardware, installing new software and training users to use the new Office 2007 Suite have to be taken in consideration.


Becta recommends users to await switching to Office 2007 and encourages Microsoft to develop projects and business cases to demonstrate the usefulness of moving to Office 2007. It should be noted that, in reality, the major obstacle to the deployment of Office 2007 may be that many users are satisfied with the functionality of their existing versions of Office, and therefore do not see the need to upgrade.

Alternatives to Microsoft Office


As also pointed out by Becta, it might be interesting to take in consideration alternative office suites that are sometimes available free of charge and are able to perform almost completely like Microsoft Office (for instance: OpenOffice, StarOffice, Lotus Smart Suite, etc.).

Regarding the adoption of possible online solutions - such as Google online productivity tools or the Zoho family of web-based Office tools - although there are still security and usability issues with purely web-based solutions, it is possible that over time such products may indeed become the major competitor to Microsoft Office.

In regard to the interoperability aspects between Office 2007 and competitor products, all tests carried out by Becta failed, as none of these alternatives supported the new Office 2007 file formats.

These factors could lead to a "digital divide" situation, since a move to Office 2007 could make it more difficult for learners and users in general to use non-Microsoft products at home to share documents.

If at all possible, information technology suppliers should promote above all else the "choice" factor, which nonetheless a white elephant for most organizations until yesterday, it presents itself in all its beauty today with the added option of an increasing number of open-source alternatives.


The launch of Windows Vista and Office 2007 has been trumpeted and promoted in the last few weeks with millions of dollars spent in advertising and marketing campaigns.

However, the new software releases offered by Microsoft have generated many doubts and questions both among technology experts and day-to-day users because of the possible positive and negative consequences that a badly weighted decision about upgrading to these new products could carry.

Some insist on the fact that Windows Vista and Office 2007 did not make significant progress relative to its predecessors, and are therefore not worthwhile a costly upgrade, while alternative solutions, both at the operating system level and office productivity one seem increasingly appealing.

Overall, average individuals with a medium computer literacy knowledge level find it themselves very hard to find compelling rationale reasons to upgrade to Vista and Office 2007 beyond personal interest for some of its features, and for the "wow" factor.

By analyzing the quality of the hardware and software now in use in major educational institutions in the UK, the researchers at Becta found out that moving to Vista and Office 2007 might be not convenient, because of the costs of deployment and the still-to-verify stability of these new Microsoft products.
The same advice applies also to individual computer users and small businesses, who are advised to think twice before deciding to upgrade their hardware and software.

What is at stake, however, especially in the case of deployments within large organizations, is not only the level of costs involved, but also the capability to use these brand new products (which carry completely revolutionized interfaces) effectively, within a short time and without risking to isolate themselves from the world (due to file format incompatibilities).

The Becta report in fact emphasizes the fact that Office 2007 comes with new file formats that are not recognized by alternative office applications (such as StarOffice and OpenOffice), which might lead to a new form of "digital divide", right when software interoperability was starting to reach satisfactory levels.

In summary, whether you are a large company, an educational institution, a small business or a free-lance professional, you should approach the evaluation of a Microsoft operating system or Office upgrade with lots of caution. Besides issues of costs, compatibility and a likely new learning curve that you will need to impose on yourself and others, you need not forget that these are brand new releases, and nonetheless the extensive testing they have gone through already, we have learned the hard way in the recent past, that a product in its first release is almost always a certain cause of trouble.

Unless you are a technology reviewer, study, research, test and ask lots of questions before considering a final move to Vista or Office 2007.

Originally written by and Livia Iacolare for
Windows Vista And Office 2007: Pros And Cons Of Upgrading - The Becta Report

Robin Good and Livia Iacolare -
Reference: Becta [ Read more ]
Readers' Comments    
2008-03-27 09:41:29


1st of all vista is a window of it's own so winXP software is keeping the user from getting a clean install. I have a dell xps720 backing up on the files is important then replace office works9, my dvd9,soundblaster extreme5.1 and i have a dell962 printer the drivers needs to be upgraded also. when you upgrade do not install XP upgrade install vista then download genuine validation clean install everytime so don't be afraid of vista it don't bite just don't use winXP when you install vista of course u will get all new downloads but get your drivers from the dell driver homepage but do not use winxp resource cd let it get u online it is great but remember vista is it's own window so if you have the money upgrade and if you can't get a repairman to upgrade for u you won't regret it. and download windows8 it will throw in windows7 it will upgrade all your drivers to 2007 beats 2003 drivers and never downgrade back to windowsXP won't work good. never back download mess up your pc and it ate my soundblaster extreme busted it into peices so remember to upgrade all software good luck hope i have been helpful just remember vista cannot use winXP software but i love my vista home premium but now i want ultra so if u are going to buy buy ultra it offers a lot more and more user friendly. so don't listen to those that say do not install vista they are trying to use winxp software and they are getting a dirty install.

2007-02-14 09:43:18


My article referencing this on the pros and cons of upgrading

posted by on Monday, February 12 2007, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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