Federal Parliament deploys Windows Vista


Microsoft’s latest operating system Windows 7 has been out for more than a year, but Australia’s Federal Parliament revealed this week that it will ignore the release in the short term and is instead in the process of upgrading to its much-maligned predecessor, Windows Vista.

In unrelated tender documents, the Department of Parliamentary Services — which provides IT services to the nation’s federal politicians, their staff and employees of the parliament itself — said it was “partway” through upgrading its approximately 3,900 workstations from Windows XP to Vista Service Pack 1.

The department’s desktop fleet consists of Compaq EVO, HP DC7100, Acer Veriton and Dell Optiplex machines, including laptops used by politicians. The parliament didn’t give a reason for its decision to pick Vista instead of Windows 7, but will be contacted during business hours today with a request for comment on the issue.

Windows Vista was broadly ignored by all but a few large Australian organisations, with most choosing to keep running the long-lived Windows XP platform instead of upgrading to an operating system which had suffered a problematic development cycle. A number of features promised for Vista didn’t make it into the end release, and reviewers pinioned Microsoft for stability and driver problems in the platform.

However there have been several notable installations of Vista in the Federal Government.

The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, for example, became one of the first organisations in Australia known to have deployed Vista in its 2007 rollout to some 5,500 machine, upgrading from Windows 2000 at the time. In early 2009 the agency stipulated it had no plans to upgrade to Windows 7.

And the Department of Finance and Deregulation, which houses the Federal Government’s peak IT agency, the Australian Government Information Management Office, deployed Windows Vista Service Pack 2 to its 1,870 desktop PCs and laptops in late 2009, as Windows 7 itself was released.

Other agencies, however, decided to wait for Windows 7. In April 2009 Centrelink confirmed it had been testing the early versions of Windows 7 and had the impression that they showed a significant improvement over the performance and quality of Vista. The agency at the time confirmed long-term plans to shift off Windows XP and onto Windows 7.

Similar moves are taking place in the private sector — for example, Telstra in April 2009 revealed plans to shift its tens of thousands of desktops onto Windows 7.

Vista was initially released in January 2007. Two years later analyst firm Forrester released a report showing that Vista was powering just below 10 percent of all PCs within enterprises in the United States. At the time the analyst firm noted “considerable interest” in Windows 7, slated to be released later that year.

Is your organisation deploying a new desktop platform — Windows Vista, Windows 7 or even *gasp* Mac OS X or Linux? Drop us a line anonymously and let us know — even we won’t know who you are.

Image credit: Office of Malcolm Turnbull


  1. Big mistake. They will rue the day that CIO made that call.
    Seriously, they could leverage at least 30% of the effort to go from XP to Vista, to go to W7.
    We backed out of Vista and are pushing forward to W7. Takes balls to can a project.

    • I agree, they should have taken what wouldn’t even have been a courageous decision and shifted the project to Windows 7. It wouldn’t have even been against conventional wisdom right now to do so, and their users would have thanked them. Windows Vista on XP-era hardware? Poor performance. Windows 7 on same hardware? Pretty good.

      • I think this happened due to the amount of staff using vista at home.

        Somebody with a loud voice looked at 7 and didn’t know where to find minesweeper.

  2. What’s interesting about this is it shouldn’t be interesting. Deploying the one-before-the-most-recent Microsoft OS shouldn’t be newsworthy. It is newsworthy because a lot of tech media whipped a frenzy up over performance issues in the early days of Vista and the stink around it lingers. Obviously parliament has done it’s maths and figured that now that’s over, back to N-1 makes sense. Can’t wait for people’s outrage and confusion over this OS being deployed despite urban mythology around it’s suitability. It’s already started on Twitter.

    • I ran Vista for several years full-time, and it is a capable and worthy operating system, and a great upgrade from XP. That said, Windows 7 is just a whole lot better; faster, lighter, more features, more integrated, better drivers and so on.

      There wouldn’t be anything wrong with a Windows Vista upgrade — if Windows 7 didn’t already exist.

  3. Well this is Federal, they’ve already proven they’ve got no idea what is going on in the real world, why start now.

  4. I agree with Renai and Geordie’s assessment that an N-1 deployment strategy for a big corporate or bureaucracy is a safe bet. Especially for an organisation like DPS, which anecdotally is notoriously conservative in its IT decisions.

    I don’t think there’s anyone on the Hill that won’t welcome this. Though, my experience with those I know that work up there is that there is widespread use of personal machines to enable access to the fairly wide range of tools and sites that are simply inaccessible from the APH network.

    • Actually I never said an N-1 deployment strategy was “a safe bet” — what I said was that this is likely the decision-making behind this one. What I personally believe is that you simply can’t apply such a strategy in a blanket fashion — you should look at the actual technology being deployed and what is the best option. Technology is very specific — generalised policies don’t work.

    • N-1 is too simple an approach. For Windows, a service pack can be seen as an iteration. or not.
      I’m sure there is a reasonable rationale for the decision, but i think they would have been better to spend the money and get W7 validated for use. Nothing wrong with leap frogging a lemon.
      This decision pretty much means they will use Vista for years. Would be interesting to know the numbers on user productivity and support costs between Vista and W7.

      ….imaging the application packaging/testing effort for a gov…./shudders

  5. The only reason why Malcolm Turnbull is smiling in this picture is because his laptop isn’t one of those using Vista. “The department’s desktop fleet consists of Compaq EVO, HP DC7100, Acer Veriton and Dell Optiplex machines, including laptops used by politicians.” (He is using a Toshiba :P )

    • It does say “desktop” fleet, and all those models are desktop computers so they might have different suppliers for laptops.

  6. Its called protecting your business interests…

    Vista SP1….then when ppl complain, maybe Vista SP2…..then SP3….
    then Windows7

    A very typical Australian way of ‘keeping everyone happy’. Egalitarian (sort of) and always underperforming

    • Part of me want to agree with you, XP absolutely flies on new hardware.
      That said, I use W7 and prefer it over XP.

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