Microsoft has released six tools to help businesses deploy its Vista operating system.
Vista sales surged in early December after the operating system was launched to businesses, but have since slowed, according to Microsoft's chief executive Steve Ballmer. The release of the tools could give Vista another boost.
Two of the main tools are a hardware assessment application and a piece of virtualisation software, both of which can be downloaded for free. All of the tools have been available as beta versions, and were finally released on Tuesday.
The first of these main tools, called Windows Vista Hardware Assessment, scans all the PCs on an organisation's network to assess the ability of each machine to run Vista. It then produces a report that identifies the PCs that are likely to be able to run Vista and what, if any, extra resources are required.
Many IT professionals are concerned that their computers will not be able to handle Vista's processor and memory-intensive requirements. Softchoice, a systems integrator that is heavily involved with Microsoft software, has estimated that only about half the PCs running in North American businesses can presently support Vista.
And Becta, the UK government's advisor on IT in education, said that a similar figure — 55 percent — of computers in British schools will be capable of supporting Vista — even with Vista's graphical interface Aero turned off. Becta said less than 6 percent of school PCs would be able to run Vista with Aero enabled.
Microsoft itself says that Vista requires at least an 800MHz processor and 512MB of RAM.
The second main tool is Virtual PC 2007, which makes it possible to run Vista at the same time as other operating systems on the same PC. This would allow businesses to run legacy or custom applications while still utilising the Vista platform.
The remaining four products are:
Al Gillen, a research vice president for IDC, quoted in a Microsoft statement, said: "Broadly deploying a new Windows client operating system starts with a testing and planning process, followed by a significant investment in time and effort. The tools Microsoft has delivered with Windows Vista will help customers save time and reduce effort both in the planning process and in the deployment phase."
Microsoft has also launched its software asset management (SAM) scheme in the UK, which is intended to help IT professionals formalise the management and use of key business applications.