Windows 7 screen shot
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IT pros and developers who subscribe to Microsoft's TechNet or MSDN networks will be able to purchase Windows 7 on Aug. 6, while businesses with Microsoft's Software Assurance licenses, which give customers access to software upgrades over three years, can download the operating system a day later. Other volume licensees can get Windows 7 on Sept. 1. Consumers will have to wait until Oct. 22.
Test versions of Windows 7 have been downloaded millions of times; companies doing significant early testing include Continental Airlines, Del Monte, and T-Mobile. But most won't race to upgrade. Just 16% of companies will begin deploying Windows 7 within a year of release, a new InformationWeek Analytics survey of 1,400 IT professionals finds. An additional 37% have no plans for Windows 7 yet, and most others will deploy more than a year after release, during hardware refreshes, or when service packs come out. Even at that pace, Windows 7 could quickly eclipse Vista in businesses -- only 9% of respondents' PCs are running it.
Unlike Vista, Windows 7 won't catch IT teams off guard with hardware requirements (1-GHz processor, 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB of hard drive space), and shouldn't have as many of its predecessor's incompatibility woes.
Still, Windows 7 represents a big move for businesses. For large-scale migrations, Microsoft offers a User State Migration Tool, and for smaller deployments customers need to back up personal data elsewhere and use Windows Easy Transfer to keep all programs and settings. Companies upgrading from XP to Windows 7 are advised to do compatibility testing with the Application Compatibility Toolkit. Microsoft says apps that don't run on Vista likely won't run on Windows 7.
One of Windows 7's most sought-after features -- 52% plan to use it -- is Windows XP Mode, virtualization technology that lets applications run in a virtual instance of Windows XP alongside Windows 7. However, XP Mode is unmanaged. Businesses that want to get the functionality in an enterprise-friendly way will have to buy Desktop Optimization Pack, including Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization. Windows 7 comes in six flavors, including Professional for small businesses and Enterprise. Professional costs $200 per upgrade, minus volume discounts.
Microsoft has included a number of enterprise-focused features in Windows 7, most notably DirectAccess to eliminate the need for a VPN and AppLocker to control what software is allowed to run on employee PCs. The OS interface gets the largest makeover, with a new taskbar, improved search, and multitouch functions.
For many businesses, the Windows 7 upgrade strategy seems to be: Yes, in due time.
Microsoft is ending mainstream support for Windows XP, and it's unclear whether PC makers and app developers will continue supporting the OS. InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on issues enterprises should consider when deciding whether it's time to move on to Windows 7. Download the report here (registration required).