At the Microsoft Exchange Connections show in Las Vegas this week, users caught a sneak peak of all the products that are lining up to take advantage of these upcoming technologies. Mark Minasi, veteran IT consultant and speaker, talked with SearchWinIT.com about some of the cool new things about Microsoft's newest operating system and its other big applications.
SearchWinIT.com: Why do people need to upgrade to the new generation of Microsoft products?
Mark Minasi: Well, one of the reasons is that Microsoft surprised us with Vista. Last year at this time, if you had asked me about Vista, I would have and did say that its features were mostly eye candy. But then it became clear last February that a lot of the security technology that we thought we wouldn't see until [Longhorn Server, due out in 2007], was now in Vista. I think the prime directive of Vista is that it's going to break applications, but you're going to be happy about it.
Why would IT people be happy about that?
Minasi: Because we all beat up on Microsoft and we say Windows is insecure. Well, this Vista has hundreds of security settings. You can take it out of the box with its default security settings, but if you flip all the switches, you have a pretty secure operating system.
Are there people who won't be happy about all that additional security?
Minasi: I think Microsoft worries too much about what the big Fortune 500 companies think. At big companies like that there is a hodgepodge of thousands of ancient applications. Microsoft is in a tough spot because they want to make programs more secure, but big companies complain about how that security breaks a lot of applications.
So what is the answer?
Minasi: If you picture a big dial for security that could be turned up to 100% and another one for application compatibility that could go up to 100%, I think they should just slam that security dial up. Even though it would tick those people [in Fortune 500 companies] off, Microsoft should do it and say sorry, fellas, we've got to do this. Earlier this year, I felt Microsoft had that dial up almost halfway, but in the last few months, they've really dialed back on security because support people for the big companies aren't happy about the result on applications. I do feel that Microsoft has still moved several more clicks in increased security than for any other version of an operating system that they have ever released.
Are there any specific features about the new Vista that you really like?
Minasi: One feature is something Microsoft calls Windows Integrity Control. It used to be called Mandatory Integrity Control. It's like the government designations of top secret or confidential, but the files are rated on their security levels of low, medium and high. Once those levels are established, the file ratings can't be changed. For example, files from the Internet rated "low security'' can't access your personal files that are rated "high," in essence protecting them from potential malware. At first I was like, what, there's something on my computer that I can't modify. But now I see that in this particular case, it's a good thing.
Minasi: The newly named Crimson feature. Microsoft said let's make what used to be called Event Viewer and give it a facelift. The best part of the makeover is that by using the new Windows Remote Management system, it's possible to use Crimson's ability to centralize events from many systems to a single computer. You can take data from all the event logs and put them all in one folder, where you can look at them all. It takes the nightmare out of centralizing event logs.
Do you think there will be a rush to adopt this latest Vista?
Minasi: Probably not, but that's because the biggest drawback is what they've already got on their desktops now. Microsoft's biggest competition is itself.
You've pointed out that the upcoming version of Vista has increased security features. Does this mean you think that Microsoft has delivered on its Trustworthy Computing promises?
Minasi: I have to reboot my computer about 12 times a year [on Patch Tuesday]. This year, so far, it has been about 10 times, and one time it was absolutely catastrophic for my system. I guess I just don't understand why they can't make a product that doesn't need to do that. I understand that Microsoft makes the single most targeted operating system for viruses and malware, and that it is big and complicated, but I think it's a shame they can't make it so you aren't faced with all these reboots to fix problems.
There seems to be another push for managed services -- what used to be referred to as application service providers. Do you think it will become popular?
Minasi: I think for some people it makes sense. A great majority of the companies in the United States [have] fewer than 25 employees, and many are smaller than that. Many companies like that don't have an IT staff, so for them it may make sense.
Do you think that these products will be the last time we see Microsoft with such fat client releases?
Minasi: Oh God, no. Again, if there are 100 million PCs just running email, Office and Internet connections, people are going not to be interested in a thin client because every time the cable or DSL lines go down, you can't keep working.
Many of these thin client products are really designed for the people who live or work in metropolitan areas where the power and other services like cable are not usually down for long. But many of us live and work out in the boonies, and people will want to keep working even if they are temporarily without an Internet connection.