The desktop operating system is expected to be completed in the fall and offered through distributors in early 2007. Large companies that have licensing contracts with Microsoft Software Assurance will be receiving Vista Enterprise as part of their deal.
Other large corporate users without licensing contracts can expect to pony up $399 per desktop for Windows Vista Ultimate, according to a price list on Amazon.com where users can pre-order the system. But some experts, like Michael Cherry, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft in Kirkland, Wash., are still recommending Ultimate because it offers BitLocker drive encryption like the Enterprise edition.
BitLocker is one of the key new features in Vista. It uses a Trusted Platform Module that sits on the motherboard with an encryption key. It has the option to lock the normal boot process until the user supplies a PIN or inserts a USB flash drive that contains keying material, Microsoft said.
The price for Windows Vista Ultimate Upgrade is $259. The Windows Vista Ultimate License Pack Additional License costs $359. Microsoft is also offering a business version of Vista for $299.
Along with the Vista software, Cherry said he thinks it's likely that most IT shops will end up buying new hardware as well. "Vista has a high hardware footprint, and I'm not convinced it will work well on an older machine," Cherry said.
Vista is also expected to spawn the purchasing of other new software. "I'm not sure there is a working antivirus product for [Vista]," he said. "What I use today for XP probably doesn't run on Vista. There are enough significant changes in the operating system that you will likely have to buy a new version of the antivirus software."
In addition, customers may need to replace some of their older peripherals, which will have drivers but perhaps not drivers with digital signatures certified by Microsoft. Some versions of Vista, such as the 64-bit versions, will require signed drivers.