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Becta excludes Vista, Office - again

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Microsoft’s hopes of getting Vista into British classrooms have been held back at least another year after Becta issued a scathing report on the operating system and its equally fresh-faced twin, Office 2007.

The UK's education technology agency concluded there are very few situations where it is worthwhile for schools and colleges to install the products, which actually hit the market at the tail end of 2006.

It has also reiterated its doubts over Microsoft’s licensing model, rubbished the vendor’s document format policy, and said schools and parents should be made fully aware of “free-to-use” products.

The report advised education establishments not to upgrade existing systems to Vista or Office 2007. It also advised against mixed environments. It grudgingly said: “Vista should be considered where new institution-wide ICT provision is being planned.”

It said there should be “no widespread deployment of Office 2007” until schools and colleges could be sure they have mechanisms in place to deal with “interopability and potential digital divide issues".

It goes on to state that if institutions are bamboozled into buying Office 2007, they should should not save in Microsoft’s OOXML format. To get round “limitations of Microsoft’s implementation” of ODF, it continues, they should opt for older formats such as .doc.

Where schools do want to expand their networks, it says they should exercise their downgrade rights and demand XP.

And if that wasn’t enough to make even the most wide-eyed head think twice, it then lays into Microsoft’s licensing strategy for schools, reiterating its advice not to sign up for the firm’s school licensing program.

The agency reported Microsoft to the OFT in October because of its concerns over the “all or nothing” nature of the contract, which can see schools having to pay Microsoft licence fees even for machines running non-Microsoft systems.

While the education sector is often derided for being behind the commercial sector, this time the two are in step. Corporates too are giving Microsoft’s flagship products a wide berth, forcing the vendor to extend the sales life of XP. ®

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