UK Government agency tells schools to shun Vista

In a surprise criticism of Microsoft, the government's schools computer agency, has warned that deploying Vista carries too much risk and that its benefits are unclear. Becta, the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, said on Wednesday that it "strongly recommends" schools do not deploy Microsoft's next operating system within the next 12 months. And in a further dig at Microsoft, Becta argues there are no "must-have" features in Vista and that "technical, financial and organisational challenges associated with early deployment currently make this [Vista] a high-risk strategy."

Tom McMullan, a technical consultant at Becta, told ZDNet UK: "There is not a case for schools to deploy it unless it is mission-critical stable." Speaking at the BETT education trade show; "There are lots of incremental improvements, but there are no must-haves that justify early deployment." Becta was similarly dismissive of Office 2007, which is being launched alongside Vista. Although it acknowledged that there are many new features in Office 2007, the agency said most of these were only useful in the private sector. Unsurprisingly, Microsoft tried to wave aside such caution.

View: The full story
News source: ZDNet UK

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

New Online Fraud Tool Kit Discovered

Next Story

Multi Virus Cleaner 2007 v7.2.0

66 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

I completely agree with this. While I don't work for a school, my company has been trialling Vista for nearly two months now and we see very little reason to upgrade at this time. Microsoft can talk all day about the new foundations they've put in place in Vista and how certain aspects of the underpinning have been massively improved but the sad fact is that today, and at least until Longhorn server is released, Vista doesn't provide many, if any, advantages to the general office worker.

When you factor in the cost of upgrading to Vista in terms of man-hours spent upgrading, training users, upgrading old machines that simply won't run it and solving compatibility issues Vista becomes an expensive luxury. Even assuming that stable Vista drivers are released soon and the OS runs well, can it really be said that Vista is MORE stable then XP or provides any sort of cost-savings to businesses? Sure, some of the security features of Vista are nice but we really have no security problems under XP anyway. Anti-virus is automatically deployed, our e-mail filtering solution works a charm and group policy and web-filtering prevents spyware being installed.

I know schools are in a slightly different situation but most of the above applies to them. The argument that students should be using the latest and greatest is a weak one. In the next year or so, until the situation changes, no 18 year old sixth former is going to be denied an opportunity in the workplace because they've never used Vista; plus most 18 year olds going into the types of jobs where Vista experience is desired will probably have used it at home or elsewhere.

I'd say this was wise advice from BECTA.

Upgrading to Office 2007 is a different matter altogether - there are benefits there certainly. It's just a pity that there's no option to use classic mode (e.g. no ribbons) as there are features I'd like our users to be able to take advantage of, but they will need to be trained on what the ribbons are, where the options they've been using for ten years have been moved to and so on.

"Becta, the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, said on Wednesday that it "strongly recommends" schools do not deploy Microsoft's latest operating system within the next 12 months."

This isn't saying Vista should never be in schools...

Judging by the atrocious state of my school's network, im not surprised they dont advise it.

We still run IE6 due to the fact that any sort of upgrade of software bugs out totally on us.

I think this is fair. Let Vista go through its roadbumps. It will. We all know that. There will be mad rushes of patches in the next few months as hackers and their buddies try to find holes in the new OS. There will be devices that will cause mystery crashes but then there will be light at the end of the tunnel and I hope Vista will be everywhere... kind of like XP.

I completely 100% agree with this. I work with the ICT department in a couple of schools and there is no advantges really at all of deploying vista. After all the years spent perfecting xp and office 2k3 (which eveyone can use), there is no point switchihng to vista for at least another year yet. Its not like the jump from windows 98/nt to xp when there where clear advantages.

A reasonable suggestion... Vista is still barely out of the door, and we're also not switching to Vista just yet.

Give it some months or half a year or so being out at least.

If they'd be all over it now, they'd risk having lots of new problems from e.g. poor drivers, unreleased software updates for Vista compatibility.

So you need to learn Vista now and not wait until at least 12 months with that for a job?
You realize that many businesses don't switch operating systems until a number of years of being out?

hagjohn said,
Certainly wouldn't want to teach any kids current technology so that they can go out and get a good job.
So basically you're saying that if businesses upgrade to Vista, no-one will be capable of using the computers and everyone will have to be taught from scratch how to work?!

What percentage of the UK's school population will be leaving this year and going on to get a job where in-depth knowledge of an operating system is the key factor? Of those, what percentage will be going on to work at a company that will have upgraded all there systems to Vista?

Not surprised either... My school bought all new computers 4 years into XP, uninstalled it and ran 2000 for a year and then finally installed xp like 5 years into it.

strongly recommends" schools do not deploy Microsoft's next operating system within the next 12 months. Thats the bit that matter. Same for Joe User not just schools. Personally I will wait for at least SP1 to fix the bugs, from what I read, the advice to schools is the same. What's the problem?

If anything this "warning" is for schools without a dedicated ICT technician (i.e. most primary schools) - any half-intelligent technician (although unfortunately there are still a lot of unintelligent technicians still in schools) will realise that it won't be a good idea to start deploying Vista until issues are identified and ironed out; those who do decide to adopt Vista will more than likely be aware of the potential issues and how to work with them.

Without this warning, schools without an in-house technician would rush out and buy a new PC/laptop with Vista installed from Dell/HP/PC World etc, get it back to school and be struck with a serious case of "Oh my god, it's new and strange! What do I do?"

I can see Vista being a financial "risk" as it isn't cheap but a technical risk??? That's just BS. If anything, Vista would perfect for schools since users don't have elevated privileges.

i think they are more worried about undocumented holes in the operating system. Windows XP SP2 has had its share of bug fixes and such over the years, its trial by fire so to speak. Vista is a new OS, nobody knows (even microsoft) what potential security holes there are out there for people to exploit.

These are the technical concerns, please don't take microsoft PR as truth.

Quote - ahhell said
I can see Vista being a financial "risk" as it isn't cheap but a technical risk??? That's just BS. If anything, Vista would perfect for schools since users don't have elevated privileges.

Yes, any upgrade can be a technical risk. That is why many organizations have opted to steer away from Vista for the time being. The IT division in my company won't touch Vista with a 10-ft pole until at least SP2. Plus, for most business (and probably educational) users there is little reason to upgrade. The laughing joke in our corp IT is that Vista should have been named XP Plus... or BOB v2.0.

lbmouse said,
The laughing joke in our corp IT is that Vista should have been named XP Plus... or BOB v2.0.

More like BOB Me.

lbmouse said,

Yes, any upgrade can be a technical risk. That is why many organizations have opted to steer away from Vista for the time being. The IT division in my company won't touch Vista with a 10-ft pole until at least SP2. Plus, for most business (and probably educational) users there is little reason to upgrade. The laughing joke in our corp IT is that Vista should have been named XP Plus... or BOB v2.0.

Well your it corp is stupid...vista has 100x more than xp can ever have unless you expect microsoft to do massive changes to the OS and then give that to you for free...

Shadowdruid said,
Well your it corp is stupid...vista has 100x more than xp can ever have unless you expect microsoft to do massive changes to the OS and then give that to you for free...

lol? 100x more? A new gui, a few security measures, a new browser, a few changes to the kernal, some maybe useful apps and it has 100x more?

Shadowdruid said,

Well your it corp is stupid...vista has 100x more than xp can ever have unless you expect microsoft to do massive changes to the OS and then give that to you for free...

Free? Vista is free?

People that advise the government usually have their own heads stuck up their big backsides.

I bet if they got a back hander, they would be advising straight away.

As a lot of schools in the UK use RM (www.rm.com) for their networks it more depends on when they release their new CC3 network as to which OS they will use.

BECTA are a stupid organisation, as is usually the case with most "Government Linked Educational IT Advisory Services" they never seem to know exactly what is actually a benefit to the students.

I've always found it rather stupid that schools aren't running near enough up to date software, considering that most successful companies (excluding the finance sector) tend to keep up to date. At my school we are running Windows XP SP2 and all the latest updates thanks to AutoPatcher. In addition to that I like to keep additional programs like Adobe Reader, Internet Explorer and many other programs generally up to date as well. We are running Office 2003 and we have a software assurance licence for free upgrades to Office 2007. The only reason I haven't updated yet is because Office 2007 is very different in comparison to Office 2003 and the dumb teachers will go loopy and cry if they see something different claiming they can't teach it.

I agree with ziadoz that there is no urgent need to update, but having said that, I don't see the problem even if a school chooses to do so. I have successfully tested a network here at my school running Windows Server 2003 R2 (when it was in beta) and Vista RC2 and put it through its paces.

These organisations give the kids less credit than they are worth. You'll find the kids are much more comfortable with Vista and Office 2007 than these organisations tend to think. I've already had kids coming to me saying they can't open they're .docx and .xlsx documents here cause we don't have Office 2007. So it's obvious some of them are a little "tech savvy"

I never deal with BECTA these days cause with their "technical consultants" it's usually a case of "our way or the highway" - When I told our "government based IT advisory service" (Only because they provide the support for SIMS.net) that we plan to move from NT4 to Windows Server 2003, they said "Oh, thats very risky and there is a lot of room for conflict" I told them where to stick it!

Sometimes companies like BECTA just want all schools to stick to RM's boring standard (and down right expensive) way of doing everything and make all issues related to Network Support a case of pressing the big green button to make things work and press the red button to block Internet access!

Zoom7000 said,
These organisations give the kids less credit than they are worth. You'll find the kids are much more comfortable with Vista and Office 2007 than these organisations tend to think.
Trust me, it's not the kids that have the problems

I've worked for a number of large multinational companies and they've always taken at least a year just to get a service pack out, took them over 2 years to get XP installed....

My school just got XP a year or two ago, and my dad's school only got XP in July 2006 (I went there on work experience and helped them roll out the new system), so it's not surprising that schools won't be upgrading to Vista in the next 12 months. Even in the next 24 months would still be quite "soon". :P

Yeah yeah, heard this all before when XP was released, not one wants to use it + why bother upgrading + if it ain't broke don't fix it etc.... but look now virtually everyone uses XP! Shock!

You have to consider that it took several years for XP to be so mainstream. XP was buggy as hell when it was released much as Vista is now. It took 2 service packs for XP to have the potential that it has. Most businesses, schools and agencies won't be upgrading to Vista anytime soon because of the stringent hardware requirements. All new technology should and will be adopted at some point but at what cost? Is it justifiable to upgrad the majority of the machines to meet the hardware requirements of the OS or more cost effective to go with what's already there?

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

mrmckeb said,
Not in Australia. Pretty much all of our schools run the latest Windows and Office.

I'm not from Australia, nowhere in the article does it mention Australia...

Hey, this kind of thing affects more than just the UK. I was just saying that in Australia we don't have old systems, so I'd presume that many of England's schools would also be up to date... it's not like your country isn't richer than ours - surely we couldn't have a better education budget.

has warned that deploying Vista carries too much risk and that its benefits are unclear

finally someone see the light.

anyways, like m$ might say, "There is not bad publicity". At least someone is talking, no?

Obviously you don't know what 'light' is, you can't even spell Microsoft.

If the benefits are "unclear" and they think it's deployment is "risky" then obviously they've done no research to back up their "ideas".

In our school were are quite lucy as in, I have been running the systems here for the past three years on xp and server 2003. but A lot of schools in my area are just about to install xp. Vista is not needed in schools yet, to many software problems, driver problems etc for it to be run full time etc. if and when education software requires vista then a lot of schools will have to upgrade. But most educational software compaines are just about making the stuff work on xp :confused: .


i totally agree with this, but not office, i cant imagine how much easier it will be for people use office 2007, it takes 5mins to find everything, makes work so much easier!

mrmckeb said,
Not in Australia. Pretty much all of our schools run the latest Windows and Office.

Yep, I'll confirm that, especially in NSW.

I don't agree with the logic used in this article, though as one of the network admins at our school, Office 2007 will be a must have, Vista... yeah, eventually, but in stages, mainly because most probably won't run it.

cheesegoduk said,
What are you on about? Hardly any UK schools are Windows 98, especially secondary schools.
Yes, well secondary schools have a bigger ICT department and budget - a surprisingly large number of primary schools have only just got around to upgrading/replacing the last of their Win 98 machines, some still haven't got rid of them completely yet

mrmckeb said,
Not in Australia. Pretty much all of our schools run the latest Windows and Office.

That may be true now, but at my old high school, about a year after XP came out, they were upgrading to Windows 2000.

There's no urgent need to deploy Windows Vista, but inevitably it will have to be. Industry and business will also inevitably adopt it too (in several years time) and it would be restrictive if students didn't have access to it to gain knowledge, skills and experience with it for when head into the world of work. I agree its not mission critical right now though.

I totally disagree with their stance on Office 2007 though. The refined interface will hopefully mean students and teachers alike will be able to learn about more of the features of Office that have been previously 'hidden' in various sub menus. Educating pupils and giving them useful skills is surely the point of school right? :P

Hopefully BECTA won't let their personal agenda get in the way of students educational needs.

The gazillion new group policy things, the fact that less and less permissions are required (See the fact that processes can write to a virtual registry/file system), image based deployment, searching, and remote management tools would probably be tools useful to schools....

Meh. First the EU toils away at making Microsoft cripple its OS in the name of so-called 'Anti Trust', And then they shun the OS. If i was Microsoft i would pull out of britain. See how they like that.

chaosblade said,
Meh. First the EU toils away at making Microsoft cripple its OS in the name of so-called 'Anti Trust', And then they shun the OS. If i was Microsoft i would pull out of britain. See how they like that.

i doubt they could afford to pull out of Britain , its funny when i see people say just pull out of country , as if any company would be stupid enough to pull out of a country lol

Fubar said,

i doubt they could afford to pull out of Britain , its funny when i see people say just pull out of country , as if any company would be stupid enough to pull out of a country lol

Plus the EU and Britain aren't the same thing, it'd be like pulling out of Canada in the N.American market or something (not the best, but very rough example). I think the schools have every right to do this, plus most businesses don't upgrade for a year or so anyway once bugs are fixed etc so it doesn't seem that abnormal.

Tomo said,
Please don't confuse the EU and Britain. Britain isn't a Neo-Nazi organistation.

Please don't confuse the britains and these 12 year old doofus.

mrmckeb said,

Well you aren't wrong, Britain is a part of the EU...

No, Britain is in Europe, but it's not a member of the EU.

Nexx295 said,

No, Britain is in Europe, but it's not a member of the EU.

Well we are a member of the EU but we are not as strongly connected to it as other countries.

Nexx295 said,
No, Britain is in Europe, but it's not a member of the EU.

What the hell are you smoking, of course Britian is in the EU. I should know, I live there. We just don't have the Euro and don't roll over everytime the EU says so unlike other countries in Europe.

chaosblade said,
If i was Microsoft i would pull out of britain. See how they like that.

How profound. *clap* *clap*

Honestly, do we really need the same narrowminded, ignorant viewpoints in every post about the Europe? The worrying thing is that this isn't even a story about the EU! Are we really going to suffer this crap with any post about an EU member state? Perhaps Microsoft should pull out of America to stop all the fat people there sitting on their arse all day. [/End bigotry; mis-guided nationalism; racism]

Minchino said,

What the hell are you smoking, of course Britian is in the EU. I should know, I live there. We just don't have the Euro and don't roll over everytime the EU says so unlike other countries in Europe.

Well I was with you until that last part - we _do_ roll over it's France and Germany that get their own way in Europe, not us Brits.

oh this is funny! Microsofts stand at BETT wasnt too far from Bectas, and MS were showcasing vista and office 2007 on most of there pc's.

Also, one of the big main UK school software companys have called that schools must update to office 2003 or 2007 so the software creates reports etc in the new universal file formats.

Oh yea, and office 2007 liecences are cheaper than 2003 ones.

Gota love how it all works!

Office 2007 is a must-have. It makes 2003 seem like a joke. And education companies will surely take advantage of WPF, which works faster on Vista.

I wonder - can't Microsoft sue people for saying things like "deploying Vista carries too much risk" and 'strongly recommending' that they don't buy/install Vista? These aren't justified statements in my oppinion.

mrmckeb said,
Office 2007 is a must-have. It makes 2003 seem like a joke. And education companies will surely take advantage of WPF, which works faster on Vista.

A must-have ? You're joking, right? Why would it be a must-have, when the previous version does exactly the same thing (and the previous, and the previous and the previous one as well).

And I agree with Becta about Office '07 - most of the new features will never be used at school.

VazaGothic said,
And I agree with Becta about Office '07 - most of the new features will never be used at school.

You would be very suprised how many features of office are used in schools these days, the new courses, such as the dida qualification demand the students do more with the tools the have, things are going very multimedia and getting quite advanced, more so than just typing things up in word and printing them out.

mrmckeb said,
I wonder - can't Microsoft sue people for saying things like "deploying Vista carries too much risk" and 'strongly recommending' that they don't buy/install Vista? These aren't justified statements in my oppinion.

It's fine that you hold such an opinion; that does not make it the Gospel truth. These statements reflect the assessment of Becta in relation of the deployment of Vista within the UK's public educational establishment. It is not Becta telling the world that Vista is a bane and a pox on all the nations that should be avoided at all costs. The story clearly reflects this.

In effect, you're asking if Microsoft has the right to sue a person or entity who has decided that Vista's benefits don't outweigh its (possible) early drawbacks and snags. So, to answer your question, no, Microsoft can't sue people for that.