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MPs hoping to have their House of Commons' computers upgraded to Microsoft's Windows 7 OS were hit with a nasty Vista setback last week.

Westminster's IT support team, AKA the Parliamentary Information and Communication Technology (PICT) service, has decided to go completely against the trend of businesses and organisations that are either sticking to XP or - less likely - upgrading to Windows 7.

House of Commons Commission representative Nick Harvey revealed last week that Microsoft's unloved Vista operating system will be installed on parliamentary PCs.

Labour MP for Ealing North Stephen Pound tabled a question on 10 February in which he asked Harvey about PICT's OS upgrade plans.

"What consideration [has] the House of Commons Commission... given to the installation of Windows 7 on computers on the House of Commons part of the Parliamentary estate; and for what reason Windows Vista is being installed on such computers?" queried Pound.

Harvey confirmed PICT was in the process of playing with Windows 7 to check out its suitability for politicos surfing the web, sending witty tweets and Facebooking chums when at Westminster Palace.

The team has also consulted Microsoft on which operating system the House of Commons computer system should adopt next.

"The support service for Windows 2000 expires in June 2010. Windows 7 was launched by Microsoft on 23 October 2009 and is now being tested by PICT," said Harvey, who is LibDem MP for North Devon.

"If the tests prove successful and it can be financially justified Windows 7 will be used when new equipment is issued to Members. Given the timescales for the withdrawal of Windows 2000 support and the relatively recent availability of Windows 7 the move to Windows Vista for administrative staff was considered the best option given the circumstances."

However, in January this year the House of Commons Commission looked set to pave the way for a possible upgrade to Windows 7 after consultation with Microsoft.

"PICT is ready to migrate Members from the Windows XP operating system to an upgraded system from the time of the next general election. A Vista build has been successfully tested and PICT are now working with Microsoft to evaluate Windows 7 as a potential alternative option. PICT does not currently supply Vista for any hon. Members parliamentary desktop," said Harvey in response to a question tabled by David Drew - Labour MP for Stroud - on 13 January, 2010.

Sadly, a month is a long time in politics, and PICT has instead plumped for a bloated, ugly operating system.

Windows Vista of course supports Internet Explorer 7, so if nothing else, the upgrade might just help the House of Commons avoid any more awkward questions about its use of Microsoft's security-flawed IE 6 browser. ®

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