Government agency tells schools to shun Vista

Government agency tells schools to shun Vista

Summary: Education agency has urged schools not to deploy Microsoft's Vista operating system.


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.

Topic: Operating Systems

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  • Interesting viewpoint

    As a home and work user of XP, I'm still struggling to see, apart from pretty graphics, what capabilities Vista will bring to me that XP already can't?

    I think I'll save my
  • How Blindfolded a View

    The government point of view here is so blindfolded, in a school environment I would think one should be empowering children with the skills required for the workplace once they progress from school. To this end it is essential that they have the awareness of new and upcoming software. When a child in senior/high school leaves in a 2-4 years time Vista is likely to be the OS they are confronted with in the workplace and so too Office 2007. By suggesting that schools hold of on Vista and Office 2007 the government is withholding this opportunity for children to acquire skills and be prepared for the workplace, indeed even hold an advantage in the workplace.

    With the above students view in mind it would seam an evident point that teachers and alike would need familiarity with the same so as to be in a position to assist scholars when required.

    I an appreciate that administration departments and none student areas may be advised to remain with an up to date XP / Office 2003 installation as it is true that Vista / Office 2007 has an unknown quantity with regard security, reliance, although from experience both are at least as stable as the previous versions - in deed they are most likely more secure and stable.

    I am not however blind to Opensource software which I believe should be used throughout our educational establishments, in the main this is a cost based analysis but familiarity and awareness of options is essential to students too.

    The very lease I would expect is a qualified advice from the government suggesting in what areas Vista and Office 2007 should be employed, imagine a IT student leaves college familiar with XP and Visual Studio 2003 in two years time, a lot of catching up to do before they are even employable.

    A student leaves familiar with Office 2003 and walks in to an interview for a reception/office assistant job in 3 years time, Office 2007-8 will be what is no doubt required then and there is a difference here for sure.

    A rethink required and a more informative advice required me thinks.
  • Too early to teach Vista?

    KFASheldon replies that students need to learn how to use Vista - as it will be commonplace in a few years time - so schools should deploy it. He also says more guidance is needed from the Government on Vista and Office 2007 deployment.

    On the first point. It is very early days for Vista and there will be plenty of time for pupils to learn how it works. Schools don't have the budgets (usually) to pay for immediate upgrades, especially when their current software currently enables them to teach as they require. As with any new software, it's prone to change - and a few security holes - and just because it's available, it doesn't mean you have to buy it.

    On the second point, I'm more inclined to agree. Becta has promised more information - but that will follow probably as late as January 2008. The truth is, there are few practical deployments to currently analyse, and Becta is having to use more than a little guesswork at present in its report. But I agree that schools need greater guidance in the months coming and Becta really should be forthcoming.
  • Vista and Office - interface changes

    As an IT professional in industry, at present I can see no reason for a business organisation to move to Vista. There simply isn't any unbiased and tangible reason to do so. All much of us have heard is MS rhetoric. Time is needed to see how it plays out.

    As for the education establishment, where computing is concerned, I still consider a solid education in the principles and concepts of computing is paramount. New interfaces and gimmicks can be learned easily by students as part of their ongoing experience through education and beyond.

    Office is a little different - MS have moved everything around, but besides the front end, it's largely the same package. Sure there are more new features and abilities to integrate office with other parts of the MS dominion, but these are still under utilised and hardly core to the broader IT usage education. Especially when considering that most businesses (in my experience) stay away from the "bleeding edge" and rather wait for less considered IT departments (or those with money to burn) to find all the faults and problems first. A great many "revolutionary" features of the last MS Suite are massively under utilised at present anyway.

    Vista and Office 2K7 are market push. Should we be pushing students towards immature and what may be products that are not even needed so soon? I don't think so. Maybe 2008 is too late. Maybe not.

    But by the time many have graduated, office 2010 will be out along with "Microsoft Universe" or similar, and we'll all be back on the learning curve for products that we don't really need all over again.
  • So?

    Exactly how do pupils need to know how to use Vista? Sure, IT students will, but they'll likely have their own systems to play on. But for you average student, Vista will just be a similar desktop with similar icons and a start button that they use for surfing the internet, writing presentations/documents etc. For an 'average, non technical' user, there isn't really anything new for a user to learn with Vista and the change over, from an end user point of view, from XP to Vista is smooth.

    The only real beneficiaries from upgrading now (whilst many companies are still performing the XP rollout!) are MS and contractors and I can certainly see more important areas of the education system requiring funds.
  • Schools don

    I agree with Richard.

    I work in IT support to a school. At the moment we have absolutely no hardware that meets the spec for Vista, no money to replace the hardware, and won't have for a few years.

    Any hardware we buy from now on will be Vista compliant and will probably come with a Vista OEM license. But, Vista will get wiped off in favour of XP, as we can't confuse users with a minority of systems running a different OS. School IT support staff are also overstretched and it will take time before we are able to support the new OS comfortably.

    I'll use Vista at home, but it will be a long time before the school does, simply because there's no money.
  • Vista in Schools

    Whilst it is easy to dismiss Vista and Office 2007 in education as an expense, the debate here is not one of funding for that is an completely different issue, and one that has much room for debate.

    To clarify my thoughts -

    In areas of IT (taught to the majority of students) it should be a major concern to teach systems that students will find out of the workplace when they move into the real world.

    I agree may administration departments and much industry is still utilizing older systems, whether wise or not is another debate, however much of this is due to lack of exposure to more recent systems - due in the main to the educational environment the knowledgeable employees come from, remember here many firms and organisations cut costs when it comes to advice on IT and many rely on the in house expert, certainly in the small and medium size business, large business organisations with true IT departments often run around 12 months behind release to deployment in mission critical applications. Have you seen the IT curriculum's over the past few years - many business will tell you how inadequately educated IT students often are. Yes I realize it has improved recently.

    Most students will have exposure to Vista and Office 07 at home, be it on a new PC, upgrades and in many cases pirate copies. Would it not be better for them to have genuine exposure within the educational enviroment.

    The cost issue is something that is tackled by Microsoft often at up to 60% discounts or more for schools and many hardware manufacturers offer good discounts in the educational market. School IT departments are also often sponsored in many schools relieving cost from the school budget.

    Specialized IT Schools /Colleges are common now in the UK - are we to understand that the government does not wish these to update ?

    As I said before qualified guidance is what is required in place of a blanket statement that will simple give an easy route without understanding.
  • RE: How Blindfolded a View

    The issue really is with money here. Just 'cause Microsoft says "Jump" schools certainly don't have the money or the time to jump on cue. Even if they are were in the OEM release planning an entire school upgrade requires a lot more time than this.

    Just out of interest - and not really a personal attack as such - I'm a little worried that your impassioned plea to get more up to date technology into the classroom is littered with misspellings... If perhaps the school system had spent a little more time on the basics...
  • Becta has it spot on

    There is no reason for school to roll out vista currently. The expense is surely unjustified. I think any argument over exposing our kids to the latest technology has no real substance when you are talking about a desktop OS. The desktop has stayed essentially the same for years and any child is going to feel pretty much equally at home in front of Win95 to Vista, OSX and any graphical Linux system.

    In any case by the time our kids leave school we would
  • Hardware requirements

    We also have a case of hardware prerequisites. Even with half the Aero effects off, it is still far more consumptive or resources than XP is, and many schools are still running on pretty old hardware. Say your average user is going to need to have the OS, a couple of office apps, a CAD app of some kind and various bits of security background processes running, you wouldn't really want to touch this without 512 MB RAM per workstation, and ideally 1 GB.

    A number of schools I know of still have original P-4 machines with about 128 MB (and in some cases 256 MB) of RAM. This is not the time for those to upgrade IMHO.

    - Graham
  • Why assume Vista will be the way of the future?

    Money spent on getting Vista into schools will be wasted, for three reasons.

    1. It's not that different to XP. Anyone who can use XP is going to find the transition to Vista simple enough - and in any case, most of the skills needed are application, not OS, specific.

    2. As you said, there'll be plenty of Vista around the place anyway. Encouraging kids to feel comfortable with a plurality of operating systems is probably more useful than implicitly assuming there's only one. It's more important that students get time on Mac, Linux _and_ Windows than they become dependent on any one. Transferrable skills are better.

    3. Don't write off the chances of thin client/Web 2.0 becoming the dominant business IT environment well within the time frame of students already within the school system. I've been using Google Docs a _lot_ recently, and can feel just how thin the walls are between it and something with full business potential. Plenty of unknowns, of course, but I wouldn't bet millions of pounds on it not happening.