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 latest 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, McMullan added; "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.
Steve Beswick, its director of education for the UK, told ZDNet UK: "Customers should evaluate Vista and test it and decide 'Is this good for learning?' Rollout shouldn't be stopped if it aids learning."
Becta this month renewed its Memorandum of Understanding with Microsoft for another year. It gives schools discounts of between 20 percent and 37 percent on the vendor's software products. The agency has recently been attacked by MPs for its policy on open source.