Software // Operating Systems
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4/12/2009
11:32 PM
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Windows 7: 83% Of Businesses Won't Deploy Next Year

New data shows that the vast majority of corporate IT departments won't touch Microsoft's next OS until at least 2011.

Failure by Windows 7 to catch on early might also cause headaches for the wider IT market, slowing sales and innovation.

Windows XP, still in use by the vast majority of businesses, was released in 2001 -- meaning that it will be a decade old in two years. As such, it's hardly an inviting platform for developers looking to employ the latest and most innovative technologies in their products. For instance, XP is a bit long in the tooth when it comes to full support for multithreaded applications, that is, those programs written to take advantage of today's ubiquitous multicore processors. Also, Windows XP is not compatible with Microsoft's glitzy new graphics API, DirectX 10.

Meanwhile, large PC OEMs, such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard, could see hits to their top line if the corporate market shuns Windows 7 boxes the way it did computers bearing the Vista logo. System integrators also might suffer. Technically, XP isn't even supposed to be still available to big computer makers, though sales continue through a Microsoft-sanctioned marketing program that allows users to downgrade from Vista to XP.

Also looming, should Windows 7 stumble out of the gate, are support and compatibility problems. Microsoft is no longer issuing service packs for Windows XP, and its mainstream support for the product ends Tuesday. Businesses that don't upgrade to Windows 7 until, say, 2011, could be facing a two-year service gap.

On the other hand, early adopters of Windows 7 could see broken applications. Microsoft has warned that apps that don't work properly on Vista won't fare much better on Windows 7 because the two operating systems share the same code base. Sixty-seven percent of the tech pros surveyed by Dimensional Research said they had "concerns" about deploying Windows 7; of those, 88% said their biggest worry was application compatibility.

Talk about a rock and a hard place: Wait too long to migrate to Windows 7 and face XP support issues; upgrade too soon and deal with compatibility gremlins.

Despite early, positive feedback on Windows 7, Microsoft clearly needs to do more to help businesses overcome fears, born in large part from bad Vista experiences, about upgrading to its next operating system. It must engage the developer community more aggressively than ever to ensure that the driver issues and other glitches that plagued Vista upon release don't happen to Windows 7, and it needs to provide white-glove migration support for high-profile customers who can set the tone for the rest of the industry.

The company, and the broader PC market, can ill afford another bomb from the Redmond software labs.

The contrast between Windows 7's glowing beta reports and tepid sales forecasts -- as implied by surveys such as the KACE/Dimensional Research study--shows that, when it comes to Windows 7, Microsoft's biggest challenge may have less to do with technical matters and more to do with restoring lost credibility in the enterprise PC market. The software maker needs to start on that now, regardless of Windows 7's actual release date.


InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on Windows 7. Download the report here (registration required).

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