MPs set for Vista upgrade rather than Windows 7

Houses of Parliament

Government PCs are set to get an operating system overhaul in Westminster, but it may not be the one tech-savvy MPs were hoping for.

An exchange in the House of Commons last week revealed that the Parliamentary Information and Communications Technology department (PICT) is set to upgrade on-premise computers from Windows XP to Windows Vista, rather than bringing the systems fully up to date with Windows 7.

The surprising move has left one MP questioning why. Stephen Pound, Labour MP for Ealing North asked Parliament: "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 [is] Windows Vista being installed on such computers?"

The reply was provided by Nick Harvey, the Liberal Democrat MP for North Devon, who claimed that the most recent Windows OS had not gone through the proper testing yet and something needed to be done about the old system right away.

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

"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."

Harvey claimed that if tests were successful, new equipment given out after this time would have Windows 7 installed. Until then, politicians will be condemned to using the widely criticised operating system and may end up stuck with it for a long time to come.

Clive Longbottom, service director and business process analyst at Quocirca, told IT PRO this latest move was "nonsensical."

"Yes, Windows 2000 and Windows XP are on borrowed time - but so is Vista," he said. "Whereas Microsoft has extended the support for XP as long as it can, it wants to see the end of Vista as it has proven to be a complete waste of space in the business sector."

"[Windows 7] has essentially been out for over a year, with the proper beta testing in the public domain Microsoft did. There is no earthly excuse of going to Vista now: a newer, better, less resource hungry, but fully supportable, workable and manageable solution is there."

"Please, God, take the idiots out and shoot them," he concluded.

This is not the first time the Government has been criticised for using out-of-date systems.

Not only does Westminster and Whitehall openly use Internet Explorer 6, even when IE8 has been available for almost a year, it still stuck up for the browser after new flaws were revealed as a security risk and two other European Governments warned their countries not to use it.

IT PRO contacted the Government press office for further comment on the subject of upgrades, but it had not responded to our request at the time of publication.

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott is a former freelance journalist and currently political reporter for Sky News. She has a varied writing history, having started her career at Dennis Publishing, working in various roles across its business technology titles, including ITPro. Jennifer has specialised in a number of areas over the years and has produced a wealth of content for ITPro, focusing largely on data storage, networking, cloud computing, and telecommunications.

Most recently Jennifer has turned her skills to the political sphere and broadcast journalism, where she has worked for the BBC as a political reporter, before moving to Sky News.