Forrester Research and other analysts are predicting the forthcoming release of Windows 7 will be a win for Microsoft, because of a fortuitous combination of factors. Signs of an economic recovery may increase companies' willingness to open their checkbooks for IT upgrades. That's coupled with a strong need for such upgrades after years of delaying major purchases, plus the end of support for the popular Windows XP and positive word-of-mouth that Windows 7 won't be another Vista. (For a rundown of the new OS's features, be sure to check out this piece at our CTO Edge site.)
Forty-nine percent of North American and European respondents to a recent Forrester survey expect to migrate to Windows 7, though they don't yet have a specific time frame in mind. Another 10 percent will migrate to Windows 7, though not in the next 12 months, and 7 percent either had already begun migrating to the new OS or will do so in the next 12 months. Twenty-seven percent of respondents haven't yet evaluated Windows 7 and so are unsure of their plans. One percent are skipping Windows 7 and waiting for the next iteration of Windows, 1 percent will migrate from Windows to another OS, and 5 percent don't know.
So at least 65 percent of companies are planning a move to Windows 7. Yet the price of doing so may give at least some of them pause. According to Gartner, companies can expect to pay up to $1,930 per user to move from Windows XP to Windows 7. The cost is considerably less, $339 to $510 per seat, for those moving from Vista to Windows 7, but that's only a tiny sliver of companies.
A big chunk of Windows 7 migration costs involves testing, upgrading and replacing the applications installed on users' PCs. For each PC, Gartner says large enterprises can expect to pay $150 to upgrade apps and $200 to replace apps.
I wonder how many companies might seek to defray some of these costs by swapping at least some of their on-premise applications for those that run in a cloud environment? I tracked down a story from February in which the technology director of The Telegraph Media Group said the company's purchase of 1,400 seats of Google Apps for Premier Edition would be part of a move to a broader cloud computing model. He touted flexibility rather than cost, but I expect cost played into it. Perhaps the Windows 7 migration will prompt more companies to consider such a model.
As IT Business Edge's Mike Vizard wrote earlier today, economic necessity will prompt companies to consider putting even foundational back-office applications like ERP into the cloud. Just last week, I wrote about a podcast featuring Aneel Bhusri, co-CEO of Workday, a company some have posited could offer a legitimate cloud-based alternative to on-premise ERP systems.
More radically, virtualization and cloud computing could ultimately minimize the importance of the operating system.