Mainstream support for XP ends Tuesday, but, in news that bodes ill for Redmond and the broader PC industry, new data first obtained by InformationWeek indicates that only a small percentage of businesses plan to migrate to Windows 7 in its first year of availability.
Economic concerns and worries about compatibility -- the bugbear that doomed Vista in the corporate market -- will keep Windows 7 on the shelf for all but a handful of enterprises until at least 12 months after the OS becomes available later this year or early next, depending on Microsoft's release schedule.
"Early beta testers are providing many glowing reports about the functionality and performance of Windows 7, especially compared to Windows Vista," market watchers at Dimensional Research note in a survey that will be released this week. "But is corporate IT excited about the new operating system, or do they dread yet another release?"
They pretty much dread it.
The survey, of more than 1,100 IT professionals, is one of the first extensive looks at Windows 7's early sales prospects. It found that a whopping 83% of enterprises plan to skip the OS in its first year. While the business market typically tends toward caution when it comes to new products, the figure is nonetheless surprising given that almost no large companies migrated to Vista and as a result most have been using XP much longer than planned.
"The majority of participants do not plan to upgrade to Windows 7 in the next year. Economic factors are contributing to the delay in Windows 7 adoption for almost half of all participants. Software compatibility is the most frequently cited concern with Windows 7," notes the study, which was carried out by Dimensional on behalf of systems management appliance vendor KACE. KACE's KBox appliance is designed to help IT managers more easily deploy Windows, Mac, and Linux software across the enterprise.
The news for Microsoft doesn't get much better in Windows 7's sophomore season. Fewer than half of the IT pros surveyed, 42%, said their organizations planned to deploy Windows 7 within 12 to 24 months of release, 24% said they would wait 24 to 36 months, and 17% said they would wait more than 36 months to migrate to Windows 7.
Widespread failure by corporations to embrace Windows 7 could cause problems on a number of fronts. For Microsoft, it would surely mean a further slip in its already declining share of the PC market. Due in large part to Vista's unpopularity -- users griped about its resource requirements, intrusive security features, and lack of compatibility with older software -- the company's Windows sales fell 8% in the most recent quarter, even as rival Apple's Mac OS gained share.
The open source Linux OS also could benefit from slow uptake of Windows 7 in the enterprise market, as could Google's Android OS -- which some computer makers are reportedly testing as a netbook platform. Fifty percent of those surveyed by Dimensional Research said they've considered switching to a non-Windows OS to avoid Vista or Windows 7