Microsoft offers Vista deployment tools

Microsoft is offering a host of new tools to help companies move PCs to Vista.

Hoping to accelerate the adoption of Vista for businesses, Microsoft Tuesday unveiled tools to help companies deploy the new Windows client OS, including software that allows older versions of Windows to run virtually alongside Vista.

The company released six tools designed to help business customers migrate from previous versions of Windows to Vista, which was widely released on Jan. 30. The tools are the Virtual PC 2007, Microsoft Solution Accelerator for Business Desktop Deployment (BDD) 2007, the Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) 5.0, the Windows Vista Hardware Assessment 1.0 and two volume activation tools -- Volume Activation Management Tool and Key Management Service for Windows Server 2003.

Businesses have said they are in no rush to update to Vista, and Microsoft seems concerned about their apparent reluctance. Last Thursday during a meeting with financial analysts, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer called analysts' sales estimates for Vista "overly aggressive," and tried to downplay expectations for OS sales.

The company is hoping the tools will make moving to Vista less painless for business customers, particularly those that depend on older versions of Windows. Virtual PC 2007, a virtualization tool that lets businesses simultaneously run multiple OSes on a single PC, could come in handy in this scenario. The tool allows business customers to move computers to Vista while keeping previous versions of Windows available for those PCs to run legacy or custom applications in a virtual environment, Microsoft said. Virtual PC 2007 is available for free from this Web site.

Solution Accelerator for BDD 2007 includes user migration tools, remote deployment tools and integration with other Microsoft deployment products, such as System Management Server 2003. BDD also includes or can be used to integrate other tools unveiled Tuesday, including ACT 5.0, Windows Vista Hardware Assessment and the Volume Activation 2.0, into the deployment process. A free download of BDD 2007 is available to all customers and partners here.

ACT 5.0 helps businesses handle potential application compatibility issues encountered when moving to Windows Vista, Microsoft said. The tool includes a series of compatibility evaluators that lets companies assess whether applications will be compatible with Vista and, if not, how to resolve conflicts.

ACT 5.0 also includes a link to an online community that provides users with updated application assessments and test results not only from Microsoft, but also its partners. It is available as a free download here.

The Windows Vista Hardware Assessment tool helps businesses determine which existing PCs can upgrade to Vista and gives them the resources required to complete the process, Microsoft said. The tool assesses PCs' hardware and device compatibility with Vista, as well as provide reports with upgrade recommendations for each PC. The tool is available for download here.

Microsoft Volume Activation 2.0 and Key Management Service (KMS) for Windows Server 2003 provide volume activation technologies so businesses can activate multiple Vista PCs across the company. The Windows Volume Activation Management Tool (VAMT) enables IT professionals to automate and manage the volume activation process using a Multiple Activation Key, which requires a one-time communication with Microsoft either independently by each computer or by multiple computers at once.

KMS for Windows Server 2003 lets business customers host a local service within their environment that can be used to activate Windows Vista without sending information to Microsoft.

VAMT and KMS for Windows Server 2003 are available on the Microsoft Download Center here and here.

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