Two non-profit organisations have denounced Microsoft over the name of its forthcoming Windows Vista operating system.
The software brings electronic health records and hospital automation to institutions that take care of veterans, but its use over the years has expanded to other areas of the healthcare industry.
VistA is in the public domain, meaning that it is not governed by any licence. This makes its use even less restricted than it would be under an open source licence.
Earlier this week the two organisations sent out a press release with unusually harsh language about Microsoft's naming decision. WorldVistA is particularly upset about the timing of Microsoft's announcement.
A new edition of VistA is to be released shortly, called Vista Office e-HR (electronic health record). The application targets surgeries that deal with patients qualifying for Medicare, a social healthcare programme in the US.
Maury Pepper, WorldVistA's chairman, told vnunet.com that Microsoft is very much aware of the project. The 200,000-employee Veteran's Administration is a Windows user, and Microsoft said earlier this year that it is considering becoming an official supporter of the project.
"It felt like a slap in the face," said Pepper. "It's like getting ready to have a party and somebody pulls the plug on you."
Although confusion over the name might be limited to the medical community, Pepper warned that it could hamper the software's adoption in other countries and new areas within the industry.
The Windows Vista name could also deter commercial services companies and software vendors from marketing the product and setting up divisions or subsidiaries with the word VistA in the company name.
And the potential for confusion is not limited to the operating system. " Between VistA and VistA Office e-HR and Microsoft's Vista and Office, there is the potential down the road for great confusion," said Pepper.
A Microsoft spokeswoman told vnunet.com that the company plans to use Vista only in combination with the registered Microsoft trademark. She explained that Microsoft conducted research to determine whether the product name would infringe on any registered trademarks, and found no areas of conflict.
Pepper said that he wants Microsoft to change the name of the next Windows version, but is not aware of any organisations involved with the project that had contacted Microsoft with such a request.
"It would have been appropriate to ask Microsoft to back off and change the name. It is stepping on the toes of one of its bigger customers," he said in a reference to the Veterans Administration. "Maybe Microsoft will feel a pinch here. I would be very happy if it would change its mind."
Pepper added that he would not know who to contact at the software giant and that by seeking publicity he was hoping that the appropriate person at Microsoft will contact him.
A number of organisations already use the Vista name. A software company called Vista from Microsoft's home town of Seattle said last week that its company name is a registered trademark and that it was " looking at its options".
Although it is common for some lawyers to use major product introductions for financial gain, throwing up last minute legal hurdles to get a quick financial settlement, Pepper strongly denied that he was out to attract attention to the open source project. VistA had no problem generating PR, he said.
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