British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta) warns (PDF) British schools and colleges from deploying Vista and Office 2007. In their interim report, they concluded that Vista and Office 2007 don't have must-have features that would justify their early deployment. In my opinion, their estimation neglects some important factors.
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They made the same mistakes like many other reviewers before them. They searched for so-called killer features, having a certain kind of "wow effect". Since Vista doesn't have them on the first sight, there is no need to waste resources for an early rollout.
In my view these killer features are often overestimated. The success of an operating system is usually not dependent on them. Take Apple for example. Their operating systems often are often released with some wow effects. Still their market share is more or less negligible. The success of an OS is only dependent on the sum of its features. Every person has different wants and needs. In the end, the OS that can satisfy most users, wins.
This argument applies as well to Windows XP-Vista, Office 2003-Office 2007. It is not important if the new versions have some must-have features for a couple of reviewers. What really counts is that every user could find at least one feature which might make the change worthwhile. Since there are so many new features, the probability is very high for it. Maybe, one of your users finds the new program search function useful, and another one might be happy with Aero and the next one might like one of the other 2750 new features of Vista.
Or take me as another example. My personal killer feature in Word 2007 is the revise mode (track changes). In Word 2003, you had to click on two different icons to accept a change and to jump to the next change. In Word 2007 one click is enough. This might be a completely unimportant new feature for you, but it was my reason for switching to Office 2007 earlier than planned.
The second mistake of the Becta reviewers is that they focus on mostly user related features in Vista. However, Vista's most important new features are security and system management related . I've been writing about these features for sometime already (see the Related section bellow).
I want to add a note about MS Office 2007, although this might be off-topic in this blog. When it comes to the question which Office suite is the best for an educational institution, the features itself are relatively unimportant, anyway. It might true that most of our students would be able to write their papers using Writer of OpenOffice. I use it myself, often. But I would never consider deploying it instead of MS Word. Why? Some day these students want to get a job. Many of them will probably need MS Office in their workplace.
My job to make sure that our students get the best IT tools for their overall education. I shouldn't care about anything else. So it is out of the question that we will deploy MS Office 2007 as soon as possible. Not because it has some must-have features compared to Office 2003 or OpenOffice, it's rather because our students will have an advantage when they get used as soon as possible to the complete new user interface of Office 2007.