Windows 7 has features that point to the future of the desktop.
5. Desktop virtualization's coming
Less than 8% of organizations have actively moved any virtual desktops into production, according to another recent InformationWeek Analytics survey. Windows 7 will change that. The OS runs on all major virtualization platforms, including VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft. All vendors report a stable desktop. Unfortunately, display limitations and peripheral incompatibilities that have plagued terminal servers and thin clients for years remain.
The Windows 7 client has its own virtualization option, XP Mode, which lets you run XP as a virtual machine in Windows 7. It isn't suited to providing and managing virtual environments for the enterprise, but it will find use for one-off specialty apps or as a part of a test bed for development teams.
6. Windows 7 is SaaS-friendly
With more business apps moving online, Windows 7 offers an environment friendly to software as a service. It's tightly integrated with Internet Explorer 8, providing a stable platform for Web applications. And because IE8 is available for XP and Vista, enterprises can standardize on a single browser. On the flip side, if you've settled on Firefox or Chrome, you'll need to watch their releases closely. Both have documented issues with Windows 7.
Longer term, the potential of DirectAccess as part of your broader public/private cloud design has real appeal. Microsoft has even hinted at providing Office 2010 options for both private and public clouds, giving IT extra flexibility when moving documents across systems.
7. The hype is your friend
Sure, the lovefest over Win 7 is a bit annoying, but you should be able to parlay that joy into end-user enthusiasm if you decide to deploy. Having users excited about a new OS goes a long way to aiding successful adoption.
At A Glance
HOT FEATURES OF WINDOWS 7
Stops users from running unauthorized apps on their PCs--finally
Caches Web and file shares for remote users to speed performance
Gives remote users a secure connection to the corporate network, but Win Server 2008 R2's a must
A virtualized instance of Win XP that can run right alongside Win 7
Of course, hype can be a two-way street. At a recent InformationWeek Windows 7 virtual event, Steve Savage, CIO at CA, cautioned that users may jump the gun. He reminded IT about the need for testing, despite what users want. CA's own plan includes three full quarters of auditing and testing before the initial rollout.
8. You have a definitive timeline
Last, the clarity of Microsoft's release and support dates should be seen as a blessing for IT. Windows 7 is out and being deployed. XP mainstream support ended in April; Vista's will end in April 2012. Windows 7 will have mainstream support for five years, or two years after the release of the product's successor. Redmond waffled on XP a few times, mainly due to Vista delays, but you can plan on these dates and adjust your strategy for phasing in the new OS and phasing out the old ones.
Whether you welcome Win 7 or curse the demise of XP, it's time to decide: Adopt Windows 7, move to Linux, or bring back the abacus. Your call. Vista lacked the features, stability, and market acceptance to drive forward the desktop. Windows 7 has addressed all of these issues.
In three years, the desktop as we know it today will look vastly different. Windows 7 gives organizations some breathing room to prepare for the coming wave of alternatives. That may be its nicest feature of all.
Michael Healey is president of Yeoman Technologies, a consulting firm.