The positive buzz for Windows 7 is creating an interesting challenge for Microsoft: It appears to be making it tougher to get businesses to move to Windows Vista. And it's not like there has been a mad rush on that front to begin with.
Gartner did a survey in October that found about 30 percent of large businesses were likely to skip Vista and a significant number of other companies still hadn't decided what to do.
Plaudits for Windows 7, combined with a weakening economy, could mean that as many as half of businesses decide to skip Vista entirely, according to Gartner analyst Michael Silver.
"Anyone who was on the fence... is now pretty much likely to skip," Silver said Wednesday.
That's made things rough for those inside Microsoft whose job it is to advise businesses on their Windows upgrades. Microsoft isn't necessarily trying to discourage businesses from going from XP to 7 (an upgrade is an upgrade after all). But, the company is offering a couple of warnings.
"They are incredibly excited (about Windows 7)," says Gavriella Schuster, a senior director in the Windows unit. "We're just trying to temper that...so they are very realistic."
Although Windows 7 is getting strong early marks, it isn't a panacea for all of Vista's pain, Schuster said. Businesses have to work through the same application compatibility issues to go from XP to Windows 7 as they would to move from XP to Vista. Although Windows 7 is designed to be highly compatible with Windows Vista, all of the things that have made going from XP to Vista a challenge for businesses are also present when going from XP to Windows 7.
Schuster also notes that some of the business-oriented features of Windows 7 only really light up when a business also moves to Windows Server 2008 R2 and starts using IPV6 networking.
Furthermore, Schuster says, businesses that are going to wait for Windows 7need to pay close attention to their schedule for moving off of Windows XP.
Customers should just think things through, Schuster said. "What are risks of skipping and are you comfortable with how quickly you may have to move to (Windows) 7?"
Silver notes that companies find that the end of life for the older operating system "kind of sneaks up on them." In part, that's because Microsoft offers support for so long for its software. Typically Windows releases are supported, at least in some form, for a decade or more. Third-party software makers, however, are keen to support as few operating systems as they need to.
By 2012, he says, many software makers are going to be aiming to drop support for XP, particularly for the latest versions of their products. In general, Microsoft says those that are close to deploying Vista should move ahead.
"Keep going," Schuster said, adding that businesses that move to Vista will find that they will be in good shape to move those same machines to Windows 7.
In addition to the fact that many of the early compatibility and other challenges have been worked out, Schuster notes that many businesses now find themselves with a large number of Vista capable machines--something that wasn't the case when the software was initially released. Schuster said many IT departments have been looking to Microsoft for some support that it still makes sense to move to Vista.