Practical Analysis: Users To Microsoft: 'Win7 Better Be Good'

More than 1,400 respondents to our poll expressed their concerns over Win7 and vented their frustrations over Vista.
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Art Whittmann You're disillusioned with Microsoft. That's the headline finding from our recent Windows 7 survey. The other thing that struck me was the response rate. More than 1,400 of you took our poll, about three times more than usual. The full results of our survey will be the basis for an InformationWeek feature later this month as well as a full Analytics Report, but I want to share some of the surprising results here.

One astonishing result is the lack of uptake of Windows Vista among enterprises. We asked which operating systems were in use, allowing multiple responses. More than 75% of respondents say they haven't migrated to Vista at all, and less than 3% say they've fully migrated on both new and old hardware. Clearly, these are the sorts of numbers pressing Microsoft to push up its release dates for Windows 7, but that doesn't necessarily mean rapid adoption is a foregone conclusion.

Almost 40% of survey respondents say they have no plans yet to deploy Windows 7, and the rest spread their adoption plans fairly evenly from six to 24 months out, or as systems are retired and replaced. That's a pretty typical desktop deployment cycle, indicating that XP is still doing the job just fine for most organizations. In fact, the new Windows 7 feature that survey respondents find most interesting is its XP mode.

Another interesting finding is what appears to be a long-term acceptance of netbooks for business purposes. Half of survey respondents see limited use of netbooks in their organizations within two years, and another 19% see extensive use. Respondents also see more Linux and Macintosh desktops in their futures. Our data shows that Linux is seen as a slightly more likely alternative to Windows than is the Mac, showing if nothing else that enterprise buyers are ready for a more cost-effective alternative.

All of this points to a precarious time for Microsoft. While preliminary testing of Windows 7 indicates that it addresses much of what repelled users from Vista, it's by no means a slam-dunk success. Particularly with software as complex as operating systems, there will be bad versions (Millennium Edition, anyone?). What's different now is that at least for some businesses, there are viable alternatives to Windows and Microsoft's productivity applications.

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If the response rate to our poll had been anything approaching typical, the results might indicate a fairly lax view of changes to the desktop operating system. There's no doubt that the prevailing attitude is one of wait and see. But the extremely high response rate, taken along with the general tone of the free-form answers, indicates that there's a lot of passion and angst around the desktop OS.

Most of you indicate that you're not thinking about giving up on Microsoft just yet but are looking more seriously at other options. That's a sensible approach as conspiring forces, including desktop virtualization, application Webification, and the rising popularity of smartphones and netbooks, all threaten Microsoft's desktop monopoly.

So just how passionate were the responses to our survey? We asked what message respondents would like to deliver to Microsoft and received more than 800 responses. As expected, we heard the usual concerns about pricing (a lot about pricing), hardware requirements, and quality, but some were more personal. One that struck me: "It better be good, my career depends on it!"

Art Wittmann is director of InformationWeek Analytics, a portfolio of decision-support tools and analyst reports. You can write to him at [email protected].

To find out more about Art Wittmann, please visit his page.

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