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by: Dennis Hill

The Top-Line:

The cycle of requiring faster processors and oodles of memory continues with Microsoft Office Professional 2007. Reports of Outlook 2007 exhibiting moderate to severe performance issues have been confirmed when working with large PST and OST files. PST files contain the email messages, contacts, calendar and tasks in previous versions of Outlook, so people who upgrade will retain this legacy in new implementations and inherit the performance problem.

Microsoft has made a patch available to validated users, which vastly improves speed. Nevertheless, minimum hardware configurations for users planning to implement Vista and Office 2007 should contain no less than 2GB of memory. Search for Microsoft Knowledge Base article 932086 from your favorite search engine or on the Microsoft webpage.

The Mid-Line:

As we blogged in January following the demonstration and public release of Vista and Office 2007, performance issues would be broad and severe. Most business computer users had completed migrations to 1GB of memory in 2006 on desktop and laptop systems, but as we noted then, demonstrators at nationwide Microsoft conferences experienced video skipping and other performance glitches using duo-core processors and as much as 3GB of memory.

The essential concern is this – Microsoft software developers have the best equipment, latest processors, and most memory on which to develop their operating systems and applications. While the days of efficient programming have long disappeared on the PC front, end-users who are less equipped experience a see-saw effect between Microsoft and hardware manufacturers (principally Intel Corp and AMD). The see-saw causes one to push the other while consumers are squeezed between them to purchase upgrades.

Even in the early days of raster graphics on mainframe and minicomputers, program coding had to be efficient since memory was a premium and most systems were time-shared among many users. The 32-bit VAX from Digital Equipment Corporation could support hundreds of users in memory as small as 16MB (yes, megabytes, not gigabytes). By comparison today’s microcomputers are thousands of times more powerful, but application software and operating systems are not designed to maximize hardware efficiency. Thus, as new software is introduced like Vista and Office 2007, users are forced to upgrade their hardware – eventually, if not immediately.

Problematically, business users today employ less than 40% of the features found in most application suites, like Microsoft Office. Even fewer dive into operating system features. As in decades past, productivity is found in the entry and retrieval of information for decision-making, but the early adopter obsesses on having the latest and greatest technical gizmo or program on the market regardless.

The Bottom-Line:

Some companies, like Sun Microsystems, offer competing operating systems to the Microsoft Windows environment, as well as alternatives to office application suites. The time may have arrived for companies to consider whether the cost sunk into operating system, application software and hardware upgrades truly offers a measurable return-on-investment, and if keeping up with the Jones is a sound business strategy year-after-year.


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