In January, when the US Department of Transportation (DOT) sent a memo to its employees telling them not to install Windows Vista, Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 7.0, or the Microsoft Office 2007 system until the compatibility testing of the new products could be completed, it triggered a firestorm of controversy. But Microsoft said that the DOT case is both isolated and temporary and that government installations of Microsoft's new systems are on par with installations in the private sector.
The DOT moratorium on Microsoft's latest products came to light when the January memo from DOT CIO Daniel Mintz was leaked online last month. In the memo, Mintz said that there appears to be "no compelling technical or business case" for installing the new systems, and cited various costs (some related to the cost of upgrading) and "version compatibility concerns" (especially with Microsoft Word) as reasons for not upgrading. (The latter concern is most likely misguided: Although Mintz admitted that he's relying on information from internal and external analysts, those compatibility concerns are most likely related to new document formats in Office 2007 that are optional.)
News of a Vista ban, often misreported as a government-wide ban, was widespread last month, and many Linux- and Macintosh-oriented Web sites latched onto the news as proof that Vista wasn't doing as well in the market as expected. Microsoft, however, said that Vista adoption is proceeding as expected. "We're wrapping up the largest early adoption program for the Windows OS ever, and over 10 percent of our partners were from the federal government," said Patrick Svenburg, a Windows client solution specialist involved with Microsoft's federal government sales. "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."
Microsoft will meet with the DOT this month to address the department's concerns. However, it's important to note that of the three financial reasons for the upgrade moratorium, two of them--the DOT's lowered budget and the cost of moving to its new headquarters later this year--were largely unrelated to upgrade costs. And the DOT isn't exactly a poster child for governmental Vista adoption: Vista's extensive security changes will be of more interest to government agencies in which data security is of the utmost importance.
In short, government agencies will likely move to Vista and other Microsoft systems on their own schedules, as usual. And in the world of software migrations, government agencies are among the slowest to do so; they're even slower than the large companies that Microsoft relies on for bulk sales.
"Moratorium Regarding Desktop/Laptop Computer Software Upgrades to Microsoft Windows Vista, Office 2007 and Internet Explorer version 7"