Uncle Sam Mulls The Move To Windows 7

Many government agencies participated in the Windows 7 beta program, but the public sector is expected to trail businesses in adopting Microsoft's new operating system.
Now that Microsoft has released Windows 7, government agencies face a decision. Do they deploy Microsoft's new operating system? And, if so, when?

Windows 7 screen shot
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Troy West, general manager and VP of Dell's federal government business, writes in a blog post that federal IT managers will deploy Windows 7 "more broadly and more quickly" than they have Windows Vista. However, that prediction, based on a survey of federal IT managers, isn't surprising because government adoption of Vista has been low. A majority of government offices still use Windows XP.

Of federal IT managers with plans to move to Windows 7, 60% plan to make the move in six months or more. That's almost certainly slower than will be the case among consumers and businesses. "Budget cycles and approvals will likely force the public sector to lag a bit," writes West.

Among the factors influencing Windows 7 adoption by federal agencies are the time required for management approvals and any related IT upgrades. According to Dell, 60% of federal agencies with Windows 7 migration plans will make the move as part of their normal PC and laptop refresh cycle.

A few government agencies are early adopters of Windows 7, or are poised to be. The U.S. Army has been testing Windows 7, and the Air Force is working on a Windows 7 upgrade plan, even as it completes its migration to Vista.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory plans to be "very aggressive" in its move to Windows 7, according to lab CIO Jerry Johnson. Windows 7's security features and its more reasonable hardware requirements (compared to Vista) are driving that decision, says Johnson.

Teresa Carlson, VP of Microsoft's federal business, writes in a blog post that many government customers participated in the Windows 7 beta program, and points to the city of Miami, the state of Illinois, and the University of New Mexico as early adopters. She doesn't mention any federal agencies in that post.

Carlson touts new and improved security features in Windows 7, including User Account Control, Direct Access, and BitLocker To Go, that should appeal to government users. She also addresses some misconceptions about the cost of Windows 7 and the time required to install it. With volume pricing and discounts, she says, federal agencies can deploy Windows 7 enterprise edition for under $100 per user, less than half its $220 sticker price. And "typical users" can migrate to Windows 7 in under an hour, though the process can take much longer for power users, she admits.

Microsoft is ramping up its Windows 7 push in the public sector. It's offering 15% discounts on Windows 7 professional edition for small government customers, will host a Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 virtual event on Nov. 10, and is preparing a Windows 7 e-book for government customers.

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