Letter from IT Personnel at Purdue University: No Upgrades to Vista, Office 2007, or even IE7

Purdue University is a Big Ten school with 40,000+ students and a fairly tech savvy campus. But due to bugs, compatibility issues, and lack of backwards compatibility, Purdue is holding off on Microsoft upgrades for now. Reproduced with permission, here’s the letter I received explaining why Purdue will not upgrade Windows, Office, or even Internet Explorer on thousands of computers:

“Hello all,

The newest version of the Microsoft Windows operating system is called “Vista”, and has just recently been released to consumers.  Please note that this should not be confused with Purdue’s course management system, “WebCT Vista”.  Windows Vista will gradually replace the current version of Windows, which is “Windows XP”.

Additionally, Microsoft Office 2007 and Internet Explorer version 7 have also recently been released.

We…the information technology community of Purdue University…do not plan on rolling these new products out until late this semester, or even more likely, sometime this summer.  It may be obvious, but just to be sure, we would prefer that outside (of Purdue) users find the bugs that are sure to be waiting in the initial release of these products, and after Microsoft releases their initial patches we’ll be in better shape to consider how to make the switch.

Here are a few issues you should be aware of if you are currently considering upgrading…

1) Microsoft Vista does not currently work with the Purdue PAL wireless system.  ITaP has announced they will have the PAL problem fixed by the end of this month, which is great, however many home users have also announced similar problems with wireless networking.

2) Microsoft Office 2007 file formats are not not backwardly compatible to the previous versions of Office (2000, XP, 2003).  If you’re running Word 2007 and save a file “normally” and give it to an Office 2003 user, they can’t even open it without installing a “Compatibility Pack”.  And while the Office Compatibility Pack currently exists for Windows users, it does not yet exit for users of Mac Office 2004.

3) Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) is a free upgrade that is being downloaded from Microsoft automatically in most cases to home computers.  Krannert, and nearly all of Purdue, is preventing the automatic deployment of IE7 due to a large number of compatibility problems with existing web sites and software including OnePurdue.  As these incompatibilities are resolved, we will be deploying IE7 to existing Windows XP workstations.

For the home user, we know that new machines will start shipping with Vista, Office 2007 and other new versions of the Microsoft product line.  We are working hard to ensure that as Vista and Office 2007 products come into the mainstream outside Purdue, we are able to support the same products internally.  Knowing the large number of existing compatibility issues, we urge you to exercise caution when choosing to upgrade your home machines to any of these products, particularly machines like laptops that you expect to use on campus or to access campus systems.

My main point is that while these upgrades all show a lot of promise, there are rough edges that still need to be worked out.  If you have a home PC running Windows XP and it’s in good shape, you probably should let others get work those kinks out for you. Nearly all existing home computers will need video hardware upgrades, memory upgrades, BIOS upgrades, device driver upgrades, etc.  Some trade journal authors in fact have gone as far as to say that you shouldn’t even consider upgrading an existing home computer.

Enough said.  This is one of those situations where patience truly is a virtue worth your time.

Best regards, & Happy New Year”

So the question of the day is: how indicative do you think this is of the overall reaction of larger institutions toward the perceived need to upgrade Microsoft products?

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  • Matt

    I think it’s always been a common practice among large business / school to let others find the bugs and fix them before they upgrade. Some will get one or two systems and test them out but a complete upgrade usually doesn’t happen until the product has been out for a few months. I attend Utah Valley State College and received a similar message at the end of the year stating almost the same things. As for myself I’ve been using IE 7 since it went public and haven’t had really any problems or compatablity issues with any of the sites I visit.

  • Bob Caswell

    Thanks for the comment, Matt! I agree it’s pretty normal, though Microsoft has already been through this cycle many times. As a billion dollar company, what’s with silly issues like making backwards compatibility something not automatically set up?

    Perhaps I’m a lone wolf expecting more out of Microsoft this time around…

  • http://www.frattaroli.us mfratt

    I’m just glad they’re gonna get these issues resolved by this summer. I’m off to Purdue next year, and I’ve been using Vista on my Thinkpad since November.

  • joe

    I work for Purdue Itap, and would hope that they would have differentiated between their ?student sector (the small portion) and their research & faculty portion (Larger & ?important section), @ Purdue there is one train of thought we are a business, students ?come second, and with this they are starting to implement user unfriendly technology ?delays towards students. Vista is already being developed for “business” use, after all ?Purdue has the 2nd most profitable research center of any college/university. However ?there is a growing opinion that they should rush the student development and deployment ?to work out the bugs faster for the research and business development, outdating student ?software and hardware that they will not fund the departments to replace.?

  • http://www.computers.net Bob Caswell

    Thanks for info, Joe.