Microsoft officials have denied that a US Department of Transport ruling on adoption of Windows Vista is indicative of a widespread reluctance in the US public sector to install the new operating system.
In a report that was circulated internally within the department by DoT Chief Information Officer Daniel Mintz in late January 2007, that only surfaced publicly on 5 March, the IT manager placed an indefinite halt on procurement of the software and any planned desktop upgrades to Vista.
Among the reasons cited by Mintz in ceasing any deployment of the newest operating system from Microsoft were questions about its compatibility with other programmes, including earlier versions of Windows, and the estimated costs for moving to Vista.
Despite the setback, Microsoft executives claim that Vista adoption is moving forward at a consistent pace in the government sector, and on par with similar installations among private industry.
Although aware of the budgetary and scheduling conflicts that often cause the US government to lag behind businesses in bringing onboard major new platforms, Microsoft said that the operating system is already finding a home in the space.
"We're wrapping up the largest early adoption program for the Windows operating system ever, and over ten percent of our partners were from the federal government," said Patrick Svenburg, Windows client solution specialist with the Microsoft Federal group. "This also represented our largest partnership ever with the federal government; we worked closely with them throughout the entire development cycle to address their concerns and priorities."
Svenburg said that Microsoft is planning to host senior officials from the Department of Transportation in Redmond before the end of March to address the concerns the department expects to encounter in moving to the OS.
In his memo, Mintz specifically cited "lack of a compelling business case" as his rationale for temporarily banning the move to Vista, along with Microsoft Office 2007 and the Internet Explorer 7 browser.
he also attributed some of the department's reluctance to upgrade on the agency's planned move to a new Washington headquarters later this year.
The DoT technology executive didn't immediately respond to calls seeking further comment on the Vista moratorium.
Microsoft representatives said that like many of its largest, Enterprise Agreement-level customers, government organisation such as the Transportation Department will need to avail themselves of the software maker's compatibility and deployment automation programs to help overcome some of the perceived challenges with Vista deployment.
Most major government departments have invested heavily in moving their critical applications to Web-based systems, which could dampen demand for migration to the new OS and productivity suite, said Shawn McCarthy, a government IT analyst with IDC.
"The individual agencies are under a lot of pressure to make a business case anytime they want to do systems upgrades; if they can't really justify with benefit that will be seen, the upgrade either doesn't happen or migration is slower."