Well, Windows Vista is now on the market, but my question is: Do any educators care? I don’t know of any midwest U.S. school districts planning to make the transition to Vista anytime soon. In an interview with CNN this morning, Bill Gates said:

People are using Windows PCs more than they watch TV now. A big release of Windows was needed. We put a lot into this one.

Bill Gates

I can view YouTube and GoogleVideo clips just fine on both my WindowsXP computers and my Macintosh. (As long as I’m not connecting to the Internet in a school district with a content filter that blocks those sites.) Did we really need an OS rev of Windows so we could watch more movies? Hardly. I think this release has more to do with the treadmill of upgrades which Microsoft has most users convinced they need to be on rather than true functionality upgrades. Where is the innovation in Windows Vista? According to the same article:

Gates explained several of Vista’s key new features, including controls that let parents monitor what Web sites their kids have viewed as well as the time spent on the computer. Gates also showed some of the features for editing digital photos and videos. “We’re making the PC the place where it all comes together,” Gates said, adding that people using Vista will be able to view content from their computer on their TV. Gates bristled at the suggestion that Vista had some similarities to Apple’s OS X operating system for Macs. “No no no. There are whole areas where we’ve innovated,” Gates said during the interview.

Hmmm. Sounds a lot like Mac OS X features: built-in parental controls, iLife, and the recently released Apple TV. What are the “whole areas where we’ve [Microsoft has] innovated?” Is he referring to the Zune? Probably not. If real “innovations” are in Vista, I haven’t heard about or seen them. I’m definitely watching.

The January 2007 Consumer Reports article “Do you need Vista? A look at some of its most useful features” is unconvincing too. The last two paragraphs of the article include some pretty good advice, however, for schools as well as individuals:

If dealing with a Vista upgrade is more than you want to tackle, there are other options. You can get some new Microsoft enhancements with Windows XP. For example, you can get Internet Explorer 7 with all its new features, Media Player 11, and for security, Windows Defender and LiveOneCare. And there’s an XP version called Media Center Edition that includes many of the multimedia features.

Or you can go with Apple. Chances are good that you will be able to run Vista on a Mac as well, once Apple updates its Boot Camp loader. Buying a Mac will get you a brand that offers excels in technical support and reliability. But you won’t sidestep the operating system dilemma entirely, because Apple plans an upgrade to its operating system, OS X, in spring 2007. That will most likely require an upgrade cost of $100 to $200.

Of course when Leopard is finally released for Mac users, we already know some of the amazing innovations it will include. My most anticipated upgrades are the green screen effect for iChat that will let you put any picture or movie behind you when videoconferencing in front of a fairly uniform background, as well the option to use PhotoBooth effects. Mom and Dad, LOOK OUT! :-) The upgrade will also empower users to present via an iChat videoconference with content like a keynote presentation (think H.239 People and Content) but in a much slicker view than a simple PIP.

The Consumer Reports writers left out one “third option,” however, that deserves serious attention from every school board member and administrator with a limited budget. (Am I leaving anyone out?) Consider Linux. Ubuntu, Edubuntu, and Linspire (if you just HAVE to pay for your desktop OS and want paid support options directly from the manufacturer) are all worth considering, especially for computers used exclusively for Internet access and productivity software applications. (Think FireFox and OpenOffice too.)

Whether you share my dubious view of Vista or not, if you’re into digital storytelling you might consider entering Microsoft’s “Show us your ‘Wow'” video competition which coincides with the Vista release. The competition description is pretty open and should leave lots of room for creativity:

When did something leave you awed and exhilarated? The birth of a child? Or was it an [sic] historic event, like a classic sporting moment? Maybe it was something you’d never seen before– something that made you go, “Wow.” Pick your own videos or photos and show the world your “Wow.”

According to the official rules, everyone has until March 5th to submit entries. Many of the prizes look great, so this is worth checking out. A person can enter up to 10 times, and must have a a .NET Passport (now called Windows Live ID, I’m not sure why the contest uses the old name) to submit. I wonder if they’d award a prize to a movie I created with iMovie? Probably not. Still, it might be worth a try! :-)

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  • B Brown

    I think Vista is more about security than Microsoft wants to let on. As a tech coordinator for a school district I have begun experimenting with a test machine on our Windows based network and the behavior of the OS is interesting to say the least. It will accept some visual basic scripting straight out of the 2k3 server environment, but not everything (i.e. mapped drives do not connect). There is a security feature that continuously asked me if I “really” wanted to do this or that – which I promptly turned off after the 50th time of clicking “Yes” (some security feature, huh?).

    The activation process looks like its going to be fun too: http://www.microsoft.com/technet/windowsvista/plan/volact1.mspx

    Of course, the more devious members of the technological society are already having fun with Vista: http://www.microsoft-watch.com/content/vista/another_vista_activation_crack_appears.html

    Does this educator really care about Vista? Not really. Many school’s computers are not even powerful enough to run it since they were bought to run Windows 2k and were upgraded to XP. While most computers in my district will run Vista we will not migrate to it right away. In fact, the plan right now is to only place Vista out on new computers as they enter the district.

    Office 2k7 on the other hand is a different story. While the basic functions are the same as previous versions, the layout is quite different. We will be installing it on as many of the computers as we can this summer starting with the upper grades first (they are the closest to graduation and the most likely to need the knowledge of Office 2k7 in a “real” world environment).

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