For starters, you can't run the fancy 3D, translucent Aero Glass on it. Minus the pretty Glass bits, Aero was OK. SLED, on the other hand, had no trouble delivering the pretty desktop goodies with Xgl.
For Vista, if you want good graphics, you really need a DirectX 9-compliant 3D 128-MB video card that supports Pixel Shader 2.0 in hardware a WDDM (Windows Device Driver Model) driver. You'll do a lot better, though, with 256MB of RAM.
In addition, Vista was overall rather laggy on this system. It wasn't that it was always slow. It wasn't. But, when Vista was loaded down with several typical office applications, Outlook 2003, Word 2003, and Firefox 1.506 or Internet Explorer 7 beta, it would start slowing significantly. Primarily, this seemed to be happening because even with this relatively light load, it had to swap data to the hard disk for virtual memory.
SLED, with a similar load, running the Microsoft Office applications on CrossOver Office, and Firefox 1.506, had no trouble whatsoever keeping up the pace.
As it happens, Microsoft has an answer for this drive problem. Vista is able to use flash memory with its ReadyBoost feature, and ReadyDrive, which uses a flash cache on the system's hard drive to improve overall performance.
The problem with this idea is that almost no PCs have significant amounts of flash memory installed and flash-enabled "hybrid" drives, aren't here yet. Samsung and Seagate Technology promise that these drives will be here in Q1 or Q2 of 2007. But, neither company has even demonstrated a production design drive yet.
In any case, all that Microsoft is really doing is hiding under a fancy new name the fact that Vista requires enormous amounts of RAM, by saying that it can make use of flash memory for what boils down to the ancient speed-up idea of disk caching.
SLED? It does just fine with 512MB of normal, old cheap RAM and an inexpensive hard drive.
The processor speed seemed to have little to do with either operating system's overall performance. While SLED 10, of course, runs faster with a better graphics card and more memory, Vista RC 1 demands a powerful video processor and all the RAM you can give it.
To make Vista as capable as SLED was on the base system, I had to push my system up to 2GB of RAM and add a 256MB NVIDIA GeForce 7600GT card. I was, of course, unable to add flash memory or a flash-enabled "hybrid" hard-drive.
The total hardware cost to make this business PC Vista-capable was $325.
OK, but with the SLED option, you have to wipe out the disk and install a fresh operating system -- so, wouldn't that cost more? Well, yes, you would, but when eWEEK Labs tried to update an XP system to Vista RC 1, they found that it took hours for their test update... to fail.
They were able to eventually update the system, but they found along the way that many applications no longer worked.
It seems to me that if you're going to be upgrading older systems, SLED is actually an easier, and thus less inexpensive, upgrade then Vista.
Applications are, of course, another matter. Most, but not all, Windows applications will run on Vista. However, many primary office applications, like Microsoft Office 2003, will run on Linux with CodeWeavers' CrossOver Office. The standard version of this program currently costs $39.95.
Again, with a Linux expert on hand, you could get the same result for free by using WINE. Alas, in our example, you don't have one.
But, you could also switch over much of your Windows application and data to Linux without any additional cost by changing over to SLED 10's included OpenOffice.org 2.0. Out of the box, it can handle basic Microsoft Office documents and spreadsheets without any fuss or muss.
If you need more, Versora Progression Desktop for Linux does an excellent job of automatically transferring transfer files and settings from Windows desktops and the Microsoft Office suite to Linux desktops and Linux-based office applications. The price for this software is $30.
If you're wedded to the pairing of Outlook and Exchange server, you don't have to give up a thing. Novell's included groupware/email program, Evolution, can work hand-in-glove with Exchange 2000 and 2003 using the supplied Evolution Exchange program.
You will be concerned, with reason, about the costs of re-training desktop users. SLED, especially when set up to use the KDE 3.5.1 interface, actually looks and feels a lot like XP. If you use Versora to transfer desktop settings, fonts, and the like, I believe you'll find some users won't even be able to tell that they've switched desktops. While some Linux users dislike the "Windowsness" of KDE, people coming from Windows are sure to like it.
What they may not like, though, is that learning to use Vista's UI (user interface) may prove more troubling that learning SLED's XP-like UI. The interface is glaringly inconsistent across Windows Vista and all of its applications. That's not my opinion, by the way. That's my paraphrase of the Windows expert's expert Paul Thurrott's recent review of what's wrong in Vista RC1.
Read it, and then consider your users trying to find missing "Back" keys and the fundamental disconnect between Vista's search function and its built-in Find application's dialog.
I suspect many users will find it easier to shift over to SLED, because it actually will be closer to their XP experience than Vista will be. If nothing else, they will certainly expect to need to work on SLED, whereas I know many of them will be unpleasantly surprised to see how much they'll need to re-learn to get the hang of Vista.
On Vista, you'll also need to upgrade your security software. Microsoft does supply its own antivirus and anti-spam software, Windows Live OneCare. But, it will cost your company $50 a desktop per year. In other words, Microsoft will be charging you about the same as you're already paying to Symantec or McAfee for basic security programs.
With SLED, anti-spam is included with the industry-standard SpamAssassin and you can protect your PC's applications with Novell AppArmor. As is, SLED doesn't come with specific anti-virus protection. After all, Windows gets a new virus every day, while we're still waiting for the first real Linux virus to appear. That said, if you want anti-viral protection for SLED, you can get the free, official version of ClamAV from Novell/SUSE.
So, let's add it all up, shall we, and see what it will cost you to upgrade your office XP systems to either Vista or SLED.
SLED will cost you $50 per desktop. The suggested upgrade retail price for Windows Vista Business is $199. If you had to buy a new license, it would hit your wallet for $299.
For Vista, you'll need to spend at least $325 for better hardware, not counting the labor expense. With Vista, you'll also need to upgrade at least some of your software, and continue to pay for security software. Let's call this total $200.
You'll also need to retrain your employees on either platform. For the reasons, I discuss above, the actually appears to be a wash.
Now, with SLED, you don't need to update your hardware. Let's say that you use both Versora and CrossOver Office to make life as easy as possible for your users. That will run you $70.
While free, open-source software can supply most of your needs, let's presume that you'll need to pay at least $50 for some program that won't be available within SLED or the open-source community. Of course, you won't need to pay for anti-virus or spam protection, so you'll save that cash.
So, bottom line time, it will cost you $724 per PC to upgrade to Vista. Or, you could pay $170 per PC to get SLED. That's a savings of $554 per user desktop.
Now, you could argue that you can do better with Vista pricing than that, and the like. I won't argue with you. You can also drop the software costs of everything on the Linux side to zero. How? By firing your MCSE (Microsoft Certified Software Engineer) IT staffer and replacing him with a NLCE (Novell Certified Linux Engineer) professional and switching over to openSUSE 10.1 and using purely open-source solutions. When it comes to software and IT costs, there are almost endless variables. One thing, though, is certain: the upfront costs of a Linux desktop are far lower than Vista's price-tag.
You may feel absolutely sure that your users will find it much harder to move to SLED than to Vista. There, I will argue with you. Take a long, hard look at Vista, then take a look at SLED. Do the same thing, for that matter, with Office 2007 and OpenOffice.org 2.0. If your mind is at all open, I think you're going to find that users will face pretty much an even learning curve, no matter which operating system you switch to.
Putting aside all issues of Linux being more secure than Windows, and Vista lacking almost every significant feature it was supposed to include, just looking at the dollars and cents, just looking at getting office work done, SLED, the Linux desktop, is unquestionably the better choice over Vista.