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FAA Warns Staff Against Using Windows Vista

Operating System Upgrade In Holding Pattern

Federal Aviation Administration officials issued an internal memo earlier this year, saying the agency will pass for now on upgrading its computer systems -- citing hardware requirements for Microsoft's widely-hyped Windows Vista operations system as a major reason.

The memo, dated January 26, 2007, was written by Chief Information Officer Dave Bowen, and Vice President for acquisition and business services James Washington just prior to Windows Vista's commercial release later that month. They point out that Vista requires "twice the memory ...than that currently specified in the FAA Desktop standard configuration," according to Information Week.

The memo also notes the new operating system needs "a faster processor" and graphics cards that are currently beyond the hardware specifications of PCs used by the FAA. The Microsoft recommendation for running business editions of Windows Vista is at least a 1-GHz processor, 1 GB of system memory, and a 40-gigabyte hard drive with 15 GB of free space.

The memo warns FAA tech staffers to be "on guard" against heavy sales pitches from Microsoft during the initial rollout period for Windows Vista. "We anticipate that this introduction will be accompanied by significant advertising hype and salesperson activity," the document, obtained by Information Week, states.

Bowen told Information Week in a March interview he might permanently bypass upgrading the FAA's 45,000 desktops to Windows Vista. At that time, he was instead considering PCs running a combination of Linux and Google's online Google Apps productivity tools.

Hardware issues aren't the agency's only concern about Microsoft's new desktop software environment. Internet Explorer 7.0 Web browser is not compatible with many Web applications and Microsoft Office 2007's Open Document Format just won't work with the Lotus Notes e-mail software.

The memo orders various units within the FAA to "refrain from acquiring Microsoft's Vista operating system and Office 2007 products" and to "continue to order Microsoft's XP operating system and Office 2003, the current FAA standards."

The FAA isn't alone is its concerns. NASA and the Department of Transportation have also reportedly refused to upgrade to Vista, due to compatibility and cost concerns.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer met with IT professionals at Microsoft's Redmond, WA campus last month. He denied a claim made by a NASA computer scientist that Vista has been banned by most sectors of the federal government.

"Vista has been anything but banned from most parts of the US federal government," Ballmer said. He claimed "a number" of government accounts were adopting the operating system, but did not name names. 

"In the past 18 months, the vast majority of PCs sold met or exceeded the minimum requirements [for running Windows Vista], so many organizations should already have a sizeable portion of the desktop environment that is more than ready," said Microsoft product manager Mike Burk.

Microsoft officials voice confidence the FAA and other agencies will, indeed, upgrade to Vista when their current computers become outdated.

FMI: www.faa.gov, www.microsoft.com

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