Windows 7 hasn't even hit the Release Candidate test phase, but already analysts at Gartner are advising business users they shouldn't plan to wait for Service Pack 1 (SP1) to arrive before planning deployments.
From a March 12 research note by Gartner analyst Michael Silver (a link to which Microsoft is distributing to various press folks):
"The first Service Pack for Windows 7 is not necessary for the operating system's stability and security readiness. However, organizations likely won't be ready to deploy Windows 7 before SP1 ships, so they will include it in their initial deployments."
The first part of Silver's statement is, no doubt, music to Microsoft's ears. Remember how much time and energy Microsoft officials spent trying to make the case that Vista was so solid that users didn't need to wait until SP1 to deploy it? (OK -- stop laughing now.)
Gartner is now saying what Microsoft officials have tried to assert for the past three years: SP1 shouldn't be the milestone businesses await before even starting to plan for new OS deployments. Silver wrote:
"Conventional wisdom has been that organizations need to wait for the first Service Pack to ship before they deploy a new client OS. This used to be a necessity. The availability of beta software to test the new product was not as broad as it is today, and people expected the initial release to be buggy and unstable. The first Service Pack usually would ship approximately nine to 12 months after the initial OS shipment, and would usually represent a marked improvement in stability. Today, SP1 does not represent the milestone it used to."
It's actually the second part of Silver's statement -- that most organizations won't be ready to deploy Windows 7 before SP1 ships anyway -- cuts to the heart of the matter, however.
Most businesses cannot turn on a dime. Even if they wanted to rush to deploy Windows 7 as soon as it is released, few would be able to do so, given the amount of app-compatibility testing typically required. Gartner is estimating it will take even the most Windows 7-enamored businesses 12 to 18 months to deploy the new OS. And by that time -- if Microsoft doesn't do what it did with Windows Server 2008 and declare that SP1 was already built into the first release -- SP1 for Windows 7 should be out.
It may seem early to be thinking about Windows 7 deployments -- especially for the growing number of businesses that are just now starting to implement widescale Vista deployments they've been working on for months, if not years. But if Microsoft really does release Win 7 to manufacturing in Q3 of this calendar year, as still sounds likely, maybe it's not as early as it seems....
What do you think of Gartner's premise? Will SP1 be an irrelevant deployment milestone for you when planning around future Windows deployments. Why or why not?