Texas Senate: Don’t Mess With Vista

For Microsoft, it’s bad enough that many IT shops have decided to skip Windows Vista and wait for the arrival of Windows 7, most likely later this year.

Now, the Texas state legislature is considering a rider to its annual budget bill that would ban the state from purchasing any more copies of Vista – either as software or pre-installed on incoming new PCs.

In fact, this week, the Texas state senate overwhelmingly passed a rider to the senate’s version of the state budget bill, introduced by state senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, (D-McAllen), according to reports in the Austin American-Statesman and the Houston Chronicle. Hinajosa’s vision is to keep Texas government’s IT organizations and other state staffers from spending any more on Windows Vista.

“Don’t buy it, because it’s not worth it,” the Houston Chronicle quoted Hinojosa as saying about Vista.

A similar rider is circulating in the state house, which is also expected to pass it, according to a source familiar with the rider’s progress. If both houses pass it, the rider, if it’s still part of the budget bill by then, will go to conference committee and then another vote. After that, it’s on to the governor’s office for signature.

It’s an understatement that senator Hinajosa’s rider more than annoys Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT).

“Microsoft has long demonstrated a sustained commitment to Texas, which is why this development is disappointing,” Microsoft spokesperson Tonya Klause said in a statement e-mailed to InternetNews.com.

The company employs 15,000 workers in Texas and, last year, opened a $500 million datacenter in the state, according to Microsoft.

“Given our daily work with government agencies and longstanding technology partnership, we’re surprised that the Texas Senate Finance Committee adopted a rider which, in effect, singles out a specific corporation and product for unequal treatment,” Klause said.

The question is, what now?

As recently as December, a survey of IT shops found that more than half of them planned to skip Vista and instead will wait for the release of Windows 7.

InternetNews.com reported last September that Windows 7 was slated to be “released to manufacturing” – the final step before a Microsoft product is actually shipped to customers – in early June. That date may have slipped a little recently, however, as reports surfaced last month that Microsoft may postpone “release candidate” testing until next month instead of two weeks from now, as previously expected.

Microsoft has still not given a final date when it intends to ship Windows 7, but even if it slips by a month or so, most analysts still expect it to be on store shelves in time for holiday sales.

That may all be irrelevant over the short term in Texas if the budget bill passes with the rider intact. Under it, anyone in state government who wants to purchase a PC with Vista will need to get written authorization from the legislature first.

According to a chart posted by the Chronicle, at present, some 44 Texas state agencies have Vista PCs in house. Among the biggest spenders on Vista: the Department of State Health Services at $728,000, the Department of Public Safety at $882,000, and the Office of the Attorney General at $610,000.

If the rider survives, one of the options that state offices may have is to purchase Vista PCs and pay a so-called “downgrade” fee to have Windows XP installed on them instead. Alternately, they could always ask the legislature for a waiver.

Of course, there’s always the option that Microsoft is rooting out for.

“We … hope that as the budget continues to go through the process this language will be removed,” Klause added.

Senator Hinajosa was not available to comment.

One Microsoft watcher takes a dim view of Hinajosa’s machinations. “For a government, it just seems that there are a lot more important things to do,” Michael Cherry, lead analyst for operating systems at Directions on Microsoft, told InternetNews.com.

“First, Vista with Service Pack 1 isn’t bad enough to warrant this kind of action, and second, in this time of serious economic issues with most states, this isn’t the sort of thing that government should be spending time on,” Cherry said. “It seems silly to single out a single manufacturer and a single version of a product,” he added.

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