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With the release of the business version of Vista about a month away, now seems like a good time to visit the Top 10 reasons solution providers should be excited about Vista.

Realistically, it’s a bit much to expect that more than 20 percent of your customer base is going to have any immediate interest in Vista, but that said, there are a number of Vista attributes that will bring new business benefits to solution providers beyond just having a new Windows operating system to sell for the first time in seven years. Those benefits include:

1. Security: Although this is the most widely touted set of Vista features, perhaps the most compelling and simultaneously underrated security feature is BitLocker, the new encryption facility that Microsoft is including with one of the versions of Vista. Given all the recent news concerning stolen and lost data, convincing customers to deploy encryption is becoming easier with each passing day. And with the widespread adoption of encryption comes a more robust requirement for public and private key management.

2. Compound documents: A lot of noise has already been made about how much easier it is to create compound documents made up of elements of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, but seeing is believing and once customers try this at home, they will want it in the office the next day. Once customers adopt Microsoft Office, it won’t be too long before you are having conversations about workflow and business consulting.

3. Managed services: Starting with a variety of tools to make it easier to automatically connect mobile devices to a variety of networks and peripherals, Vista also comes with a number of system management tools that make it a whole lot easier to deploy and manage a Windows client. For anybody on a managed services contract, the number of support incidents from Vista clients versus Windows XP clients should drop considerably over time. That should turn into increased profits for solution providers.

4. Storage: No matter how you cut it, Vista and Office make heavy use of XML data, a notorious pig when it comes to consuming storage resources. For solution providers selling storage, the widespread adoption of Vista is a gift from heaven.

5. Networks: For customers, one of the liabilities of Windows is its heavy emphasis of processing on the client. That tends to create a lot of back and forth between the client and the server that is likely to put additional stress on fragile networks. Of course, poor network performance is always the best argument for a network upgrade.

6. Personal computers: Alleged system requirements not withstanding, the fact of the matter is that to run Vista effectively, customers are going to need a new class of Vista-ready PCs that are up to the job of running a new operating system.

7. Web services: Everybody talks about Windows and Office Live, but the most interesting new development in Vista from an application development point of view is the Windows Communication Framework. For solution providers that need to create new Web-based applications linked back to Vista clients, this framework should significantly reduce application development time and costs.

8. Business intelligence: People have been talking about taking business intelligence mainstream for more years than anybody wants to remember. But the 3-D effects included in the core operating system are going to create a greater appreciation for the value of visualization, which in turn will eventually create demand for a new class of business intelligence tools. Of course, once that happens, look for demand for higher resolution displays to increase accordingly.

9. Search: Although search is the most highly touted new feature in Vista, whether users really value search enough to drive an operating system upgrade is debatable. But one thing that will surely happen is that a lot of customers are going to discover just how poor their data management capabilities really are. And once that happens, they’ll be looking to call in the professionals for help when they still can’t find anything.

10. License management: With all the different versions of Vista and Windows XP in play, any customer that isn’t already signed up for a Microsoft volume licensing deal is probably going to just throw in the towel when it comes to license management, thereby creating yet another opportunity to call in the license specialists from your friendly neighborhood distributor.

There are probably any number of downstream benefits of Vista for solution providers, but these 10 should be enough to keep everybody busy for a while even if Vista doesn’t take off like gangbusters. All every solution provider needs to remember is that any large-scale disruption in the market is usually good for business over the long haul, regardless of how many bumps we all experience along the way.

Michael Vizard is editorial director of Ziff Davis Media’s Enterprise Technology group. He can be reached at