Microsoft

Will 2008 be Vista's year?


2007 saw new OS releases from both Microsoft and Apple. The long-awaited Windows Vista finally made it to retail at the end of January, and despite the snazzy new look and its mildly improved security, Vista has failed to take hold. Very few retail customers have purposefully gone out and bought Vista and the majority of businesses are outright avoiding it due to poor performance, bugs, and hardware/software incompatibility. Most licenses sold were actually preinstalled on new computers and many businesses then ‘downgraded' those machines to XP.Apple's October release of Mac OS 10.5 ‘Leopard' has also turned out to be quite a disappointment. Most of the new features are rather unimpressive. Time Machine does what many free backup applications will do; multiple desktops have been around for ages under Linux so there's no real innovation there — just some ‘borrowing' of ideas and a bit of dressing up. Boot camp is fully supported under Leopard, but I had been running the beta with no problems, so it didn't really feel like something new.

Virtualisation has been big with the massively successful IPO of Mare raising awareness across the board. Many businesses have been waking up to what it could do for them. The continued innovation around virtualisation has meant that rather than simply reducing the physical footprint of services; businesses can also realise other benefits such as continuity, availability, security, and manageability.

Here in the UK, mobile broadband saw its first real push. Although business uses have been able to use standard 3G Internet services for a little while now, towards the end of 2007, the introduction of HSDPA at an affordable price has put mobile broadband within reach of the average consumer. I recently reviewed Three's mobile broadband package, which can cost as little as £10 per month. The majority of new mobile handsets are now 3G ready and actually have a HDSPA modems built in.

What will happen in 2008?

Windows Vista

One year on Windows Vista is due its first service pack! Windows Vista SP1 is due to be released during Q1 2008 and claims to offer massive improvements in reliability, compatibility, and performance. File copy operations are said to have been accelerated, 802.11n networking supported, and network browsing performance improved. I'm currently running Vista Ultimate on my iMac using Bootcamp. The iMac has an 802.11n wireless adapter built-in and while running Vista, I often have problems with the sound jumping or jittering. If I disable the 802.11n adapter and use an 802.11g USB dongle, this jitter disappears so I can't wait to see whether SP1 will fix this or not. Will the release of SP1 persuade reluctant businesses to start rolling out Vista? I have my doubts.

Windows Server 2008

Also arriving in Q1 2008 (February 27th the last time I checked) is Microsoft Windows Server 2008. Based on the Windows Vista code base in the same way that Windows Server 2003 is based on Windows XP, Windows Server 2008 will automatically inherit many of Vista's new and improved features and include some interesting ones of its own:

  • Read-only Domain Controller mode available for increased security
  • Self-healing NTFS and improved hot-patching to reduce the need for reboots
  • Hyper-V virtualisation built-in to x64 version
  • Windows System Resource Manager controls resources available to processes and users based on business priorities

It'll be very interesting to see what the take-up rate is like for Windows Server 2008 this year. Although most businesses would normally wait for the first service pack release before even considering migration to a new operating system; Windows Server 2008 will already include the improvements deployed in Windows Vista SP1. Will that be enough to persuade people it's safe to upgrade?

Virtualisation

For a variety of reasons, I think virtualisation is going to see massive growth. Not only because of Windows Server 2008's inbuilt virtualisation platform — Hyper-V (which won't be ready on launch but will ship out later), but because there are many benefits to virtualisation which are only just being realised by businesses. Reduced cooling and power requirements combined with increased utilisation of hardware assets, faster deployment of new services, increased resilience, and more manageability can please both techies and management alike. Many still seem wary of virtualisation, but I think as more and more business start to understand the technology and see what it can do for them-trust will be gained.

Mobile broadband

Now that it's finally become affordable and usable, I can't see much holding HSDPA back over the coming year. While the connection speed is generally much lower than the Wi-Fi/fixed broadband combo that most people will have at home, it's not too bad when compared with your average Wi-Fi hotspot. For a regular user, it's definitely more convenient than a Wi-Fi hotspot, as HSDPA can be used pretty much anywhere, and it's also more cost-effective assuming you don't use it to download huge payloads of data. There are other prospects for mobile Internet, WiMAX being the first to come to mind; however, there are currently issues with it and many are concerned that interference from 802.11a networks will create a substantial problem for 802.16x (WiMAX).

All in all I think 2008 is going to be an interesting year for technology, and I'm specifically interested to see what develops in mobile networking. What are your forecasts for 2008? Will the combination of Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista SP1 win over businesses?

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