The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta) has published its final report on Microsoft latest products in its Office and Windows product lines, Windows Vista & Office 2007. The agency is sticking with its previous recommendations that schools should stay clear from Vista in existing deployments and also not to use Office 2007 altogether.
Schools have used Microsoft Office for producing documents that can be presented by the student. Students will regularly use Word and Powerpoint, with other subjects using Excel, Access and other applications. Office 2007 introduced new changes, including a new document file format.
Windows Vista, the successor to the popular Windows XP, sees a brand new graphical interface as well. That new graphical interface, which is named Aero, is also a resource hog if it is installed in existing computers.
In the document, Becta recommens that schools should not deploy on the current existing computers in schools, saying that the upgrades aren’t worth the cost. According to Becta, only 22% of the school PCs in the UK can run Vista “effectively”; while 66% falls under Microsoft’s definition of being “Vista capable”. The agency pegs the upgrade will cost at £125 per machine for primary schools and £75 for secondary schools. This means £175 million will be needed if all the machines were upgraded to Vista in England and Wales alone; with one-third will be from licensing costs.
They also advise schools not to deploy Windows Vista and an older Windows OS side-by-side. “We advise that… mixed Windows-based operating-system environments should be avoided.” Schools are also advised to stick with XP with they want to extend a current Windows set-up.
Becta, in its interim report last January, called Microsoft to come up with a reason why schools should use Microsoft Office 2007. The company, according to Becta, has not responded.
The main reason was the concern of interoperability with the new Office Open XML file format. In contrast, the ODF format used by OpenOffice.org and a handful of others is an approved international standard. The report said that Office 2007 was not effective on running ODF. It has also criticised Microsoft for its efforts of making the OOXML an additional standard.
“The interoperability that Microsoft makes available in Office 2007 for competitor products is less than it makes available for its own family of products,” the report said. “We have complained to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) that this puts competition at risk and is an abuse of a dominant position by Microsoft. The OFT is considering our complaint.”
Schools should not use Office unless schools have a plan to deal with the interoperability and “potential digital divide issues”. As well, Becta advises schools to not use the new file format, instead using the old format. Those running the older versions of Office should install the compatibility pack provided by Microsoft at its website.
They have advised users that you only install the software on institution-wide developments; meaning every computer should be upgraded all together with the same computers.