My colleague, Chris Dawson, just posted One more reason to skip Vista (for now) and normally, he is "right on" but this time I need to clarify some things ...
First, I want to dispel immediately this FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) about IPv6. This is a red herring argument -- plain and simple. Compared to the overhead associated with any network communications, the added overhead for Vista to have to check to see which IP protocol is in place with respect to a DNS server will be minimal. It would be far worse if Vista didn't have IPv6 capabilities when it hit the streets. Any transition has short-term drawbacks but in the long-haul IPv6 is a necessity if the Internet is going to keep up with demand for access. Having our schools behind the curve (even further than they already are) would only make matters worse.
Next, in the spirit of full-disclosure, I am a closet 'early adopter'. I've been playing with Vista since Beta 2 went public and now that I have seen RC1, I am drooling. That said, I don't plan on paying retail for a Vista upgrade -- and neither should you!
Chris is right that I would not recommend that anyone in Ed Tech head out to their nearest software retailer come January and buy Vista. In truth, Microsoft does not expect any but the most aggressive of the early adopters to pay more than $99 for an upgrade. IMHO, their high-prices are intended to discourage upgrades and encourage consumers to buy new hardware.
The problem is that Education IT (except in higher education) is full of 'late adopters'. Ed-Tech people tend to think like consumers (not CIOs) and getting us to look beyond what we are using today is never easy. It is less about what we need to serve our students today than it is about how can we better serve them tomorrow. That means 'thinking outside the box' and far too few of us do that often enough.
It isn't enough that we listen to our colleagues who are professional educators either. They don't necessarily know beans about the technology -- and what it can do for them. It is up to us to tell them why the latest tools (even those still on the horizon) might be right for them! We are not doing our jobs if we wait for them to come to us.
The last thing I want people to walk away with after reading what Chris has to say is that Vista doesn't matter to us. It does matter. Not today, and not in six months but by Fall of 2007 -- and certainly, anyone in Ed Tech not on board with Vista by Fall 2008 is going to be way behind the curve.
For now, all of your new hardware ought to be Vista Ready (which is really easy -- 512MB of RAM and a 40GB hard drive will do the trick. Got a little extra cash? Put it into 1GB of RAM and a larger hard drive. ) Next, identify which of your existing machines can be upgraded to run Vista and start putting those memory and hard drive dollars aside. While a new graphics card will enhance the Vista experience, I am not sure it is worth it to upgrade the graphics on hardware older than 2 years.
Other than that, get a copy of Vista RC1 (Release Candidate 1) and start playing with it NOW. Become familiar with what it might offer your educators. As soon as you can after the RTM date get a copy of the 'golden' code. (It won't be publicly available but someone you know in the educational sector will have a Microsoft contact who can get you a copy with which you can start playing.
Come January, any new machines you buy will have Vista preloaded. Set ONE of those new workstations aside for a thorough evaluation of Vista on new hardware. Downgrade the rest to Windows XP Pro -- and stay there until you are ready to move.
Don't be an 'early adopter' but for Heaven's sake, whatever you do, don't let your school district be the last to implement Vista -- late adopters never catch up!