Bartercard disappointed with Vista and Office 07 betas

The company's chief information officer is unconvinced about the benefits of upgrading, after tests of the betas revealed several hiccups

Global trade exchange Bartercard may be an all-Microsoft shop, but the company is far from convinced of the benefits of upgrading to Windows Vista and Office 2007 after testing the beta versions.

Bartercard, which provides a type of global currency that lets businesses swap or exchange goods and services using interest-free credit, uses Microsoft software throughout its operations.

It has 1,500 desktops and about 60 servers in 16 locations around the world, which run on Windows XP and Server 2003, so the company was very keen to beta test Microsoft's forthcoming products.

Bartercard's chief information officer Jason Van said his team tested both betas for four weeks using Microsoft Team Foundation Server. During the tests, the company found that Vista was "flaky" and Office's new features may be more of a hindrance than a help.

"We're hoping we don't have to look at Vista till the end of the year," said Van. The next release candidate of the operating system is expected around this time, and Van said he hoped that by then the bugs his team discovered would have been ironed out.

"[Vista] was a bit flaky on some machines and we're not completely happy with it," said Van, who admitted that Bartercard's administration system locked up several times running the new operating system.

Vista has a different interface to XP, he said, which might be unsettling for some users: "With Vista, the look and feel is a complete departure from XP."

"If we did roll out Vista on the new standard operating environment next year, my guys say they would upgrade to it but they'd go back to the XP look and feel," he said.

Vista does have its good points, said Van, who highlighted Vista's file management and speed as positives.

Van expected to deploy Vista internally around May, when the lease on the company's computers is due to expire, he said.

However, Van was critical of Office 2007, which he said did not have a major feature that is attractive to the company.

"I don't think there's any really. It's all .Net extensions. I think it's going to be more of a hindrance than anything … There's nothing that can't already be delivered on Office 2003," he said.

Outlook, in particular, received most criticism.

"Functions like forward email, you try it and it says 'this function has not been implemented yet'… I'd send an email and it'd close down. It's happened to a number of us here," said Van.

While the problem will probably be fixed when Office finally ships, it still wasn't good enough, according to Van.

"I expect a beta release should be able to do the standard functionality that people expect. You wouldn't expect that 'forward' would fail in a beta," he said.

The fault was unlikely to be caused by software conflicts either, as Bartercard runs Active Directory and Exchange.

Also troubling for Van was the Office beta's .docx file extensions.

"I'd send a document to people, and then I've got to re-save it as .doc … we're really unsure as to whether there's better efficiency and cross-compatibility issues."

The only Office 2007 feature Van would praise was the Groove collaboration software.

"One thing that might be a big benefit to us is the Groove product," he said. "The sharing of workspaces is a good extension of Sharepoint."

Van's IT team have since uninstalled the Outlook beta from their machines.

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