Mr Vista

Windows Vista has made its long-awaited debut after years of hype, delays, and anticipation from both Microsoft and its customers. ACN caught up with Charbel Fakhoury, general manager at Microsoft Gulf to get the lowdown on the software behemoth’s next generation operating system.

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By  Duncan MacRae Published  January 3, 2007

|~|Fakhoury,-Charbel-2010.jpg|~|Fakhoury believes Vista has got what it takes to help companies develop|~|The recent launch of Microsoft Vista represents the culmination of years of research and development effort costing billions of dollars. However, the launch timetable and process was not as smooth as it could have been.

A lack of quality security solutions from third party vendors for Vista was cause for concern for CIOs throughout the Middle East.

Today, the issue of IT security is one that must be taken seriously as the work of hackers intensifies and companies continually face a barrage of new and increasingly damaging viruses.

There is at least one man, however, who feels Vista has got what it takes to help develop companies in a safe and secure manner and Charbel Fakhoury, Microsoft Gulf general manager, should know better than most.

McAfee was the only major security player to have products available for Vista’s release following a spat between security vendors and Microsoft over access to Vista’s central code during last year.

However, Norton has just announced the availability of a public beta version of Norton 360 for the operating system, other security vendors will soon be following suit, and everything now seems to be falling into place for Microsoft on the security front. And with the security thorn finally being removed from Vista’s side, Fakhoury believes that it is time for Microsoft to build upon the excitement the launch generated and really show what Vista can do for CIOs and their business goals in the Middle East.

“Everybody asks me about Vista, even my friends and my family – everybody wants to know about Vista,” comments Fakhoury.

“There’s a lot of hype, but I actually think there is not enough excitement. In the business community, yes we have launched it but now the hype has reached down to consumers and they are excited and want to know why it’s not available to them and when it’s going to be available to them.

“It has been expected for a long time. People have been hearing about what was coming. From when we changed the name from Longhorn to Vista it’s been now almost a year.” A song and dance has been made of the fact that the majority of IT managers in the Middle East have no immediate plans to implement the software – with some not planning to do so until late 2008. Others have no certain plans to make the switch at all.

Yet this is not something that worries Microsoft, and according to Fakhoury the laissez-faire attitude of some organisations is far from surprising.

“I don’t think businesses are reluctant to implement Vista,” he explains. “This is normal in terms of people understanding the product effectiveness for their own business. Plus they have to look at their existing IT infrastructure, especially when we talk to businesses where they have other applications that are sitting on the network, sitting on top of Exchange.

“All of these things have to be planned so that the effects are right on the applications, they affect their hardware and then deployment happens. It’s normal like everything else. We have early adopters who have been working with us since the beta version so they have done the planning and are ready to deploy today. And there are some companies that have been doing this from the word go but they haven’t reached the stage where they’re going to decide when to deploy.”

The security concerns may have made some businesses hesitant to move to Vista but with a new product there always comes a degree of uncertainty. There has been a great deal of hype and many debates about the new Microsoft operating system, but there are plenty of people who still have no idea exactly what Vista has to offer.

For that reason the question of exactly what can it offer CIOs and why they should go to the trouble of deploying it in the workplace remains a pertinent one.

“That’s still a very good question and it’s really about five things,” says Fakhoury. “First, people need to create a more conclusive environment for employees to work together internally, with their customers, with their partners externally.

“So it’s not only about your internal group. How can we really extend this relationship to both your partners and your clients? Secondly, am I looking for better customer relationship management (CRM)?

“Do I want to have communication with my customer base through the internet, through the web, through e-mail, through fax, and how do I build that relationship to go to a wider community? It doesn’t have to be, ‘today I’m getting my 10,000th customer’. It can be how can I get one million customers?

“Third, is your company looking to have a compliant environment because today governments are putting pressure on companies to have more clarity about the content of their operations and how their business is run. So they even have to show e-mails, invoices - websites have to be compliant. Also, if you look at content management, how do companies manage their content that is driven internally, that is published on their website, that is sent to their customers?

“What goes out, what goes in, any publication of the wrong information on the website can be used against you. Any wrong facts sent to customers can be detrimental to the business.

“So all of these things are important to businesses I believe. And the last one is how do we protect and manage the security of our data, which is important to the business?

"Today with Windows Vista we could stop USB sticks being used on the machine so you don’t have your internal information going out of the door. That could be your intellectual property - your major innovation could be put on a USB device and taken out of the organisation. Today with Vista you can stop that. Even today with your computer or laptop, it could be stolen or lost. Do you know how much data on every employee could be on there?

“Today with Vista if the computer is lost or stolen there is security called the Bit Locker. It really encrypts the hardware so you cannot see the data. In the US there are more than 600,000 laptops stolen every year so imagine how many companies could be vulnerable. So if you take all of these factors and ask a businessman ‘are these important to you?’ I believe many would say yes.”

Fakhoury also believes Microsoft needs to do more than just try to convince firms in the Middle East to implement Vista – it also needs educate individuals and create awareness.

“We’ve started with the November launch and we’ve done road shows since GITEX. The road shows targeted the business and IT professionals. And then we took it to Abu Dhabi, before going on to Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar. So we’re really trying to reach out to our business audience - the IT professionals - educating them about our solutions.

“It’s very important to differentiate. These are solutions beyond products. That’s why we don’t say that we are launching Windows Vista alone, because in the end businesses are going to purchase a solution.”||**||

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