With all the hoopla surrounding the launch of Windows 7, there are some basic facts of operating systems' life within the IT organization that are not going to change now that Microsoft has a credible new operating system for the desktop.
Although interest in Windows 7 is high and there is a lot of fatigue in terms of existing Windows XP hardware, there is still going to be a significant delta between that level of interest and actual deployments. Of course, depending upon which survey you believe, corporations are about to flock to Windows or will take their lily sweet time about eventually migrating to it.
ITIC is reporting that a survey of 1,600 people who were evenly distributed between large, medium and small companies found that 49 percent of them would deploy Windows 7 in some form within a year. Scriptlogic last month reported that its survey of 1,100 IT decision-makers found that only 40 percent had any plans as of yet to upgrade to Windows 7. Forrester , meanwhile, is reporting that 66 percent of small to medium-sized businesses are planning to upgrade to Windows 7, while an InformationWeek survey of 1,414 technology professionals found that only 16 percent have any Windows 7 upgrade plans in the near future.
While you could argue that these numbers primarily show how futile market research can really be, there are basic patterns in corporate America that are not likely to change simply because Microsoft now has a competitive desktop offering. They include:
- Most companies that bought any Windows XP systems in the last two years are probably inclined to wait until they can write the value of those investments off.
- Microsoft has conditioned most corporate customers via hard-won experience that waiting for the first service pack eliminates a lot of headaches. Given Microsoft's track record concerning security, you can hardly blame them. Many will wait to see how Windows 7 stands up to the first wave of inevitable attacks.
- While most existing applications will run on Windows 7, it usually takes a wave of applications such as Microsoft Office 2010 that leverage the new capabilities of the underlying operating system to drive an upgrade.
Most operating system upgrades these days happen in a piecemeal fashion, usually led by a small group of mobile users getting the new operating system on new notebooks that were recently purchased by the company. The entire process of upgrading a company's entire fleet of systems can take years. Beyond these traditional issues, there are also a number of new issues in the land of IT that might affect Windows 7 adoption rates. They include:
- A radically different economic climate means that a lot of IT organizations are prioritizing their projects, and major system upgrades may not be on the agenda for 2010 given all the other things IT needs to do.
- Rising interest in desktop virtualization and cloud computing has a lot of companies thinking about the merits of thin clients, especially when they think about how much data goes missing when somebody loses a notebook.
- It's been years since most IT organizations have done a massive operating system upgrade. Most of them no longer have the help desk capabilities required to effectively accomplish that. As a result,many of them will need to require systems manufacturers to carry as much of the upgrade load as possible in terms of managing the process.
- If a company is going to consider a major upgrade from Windows XP, many of them are just as likely to consider the Apple Macintosh and even Linux desktops.
There's no doubt that Microsoft has finally delivered a compelling alternative to Windows XP that can effectively rival competitive offerings. And there are a lot of good reasons to adopt it. But in the grand scheme of IT things, that only amounts to table stakes. Smaller organizations will no doubt appreciate what Windows 7 has to offer and move faster to adopt it than larger ones, but this is hardly going to be a phenomenon. Microsoft will definitely sell millions of units of Windows 7 to consumers. But from a corporate perspective, Windows 7 is going to look more like a migration of a large herd of animals slowly moving in the same general direction.