Microsoft's latest Windows deployment guidance for business users has morphed from the overly simplistic "Don't wait for Windows 7."
The company's new corporate advice is more nuanced and more dependent on where users are currently in their deployment cycles. But the bottom-line message is whether you decide to go with Vista or wait for Windows 7 is less important than getting off Windows XP.
When I wrote last week about the pending arrival of the "perfect Windows storm," some readers claimed I was complicating matters and that the choice of Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7 was clear-cut for business users.
This week, Microsoft officials themselves admitted that users are confused and looking for guidance as to which Windows client version they should be targeting in their near-term deployments. To try to clarify things, the company is updating its Windows guidance for business users.
In the inaugural post on February 11 on the newly minted "Windows for Your Business" blog, Gavriella Schuster, Senior Director for Windows Commercial Product Management, offered a more detailed check list for business customers who are planning their Windows roadmaps:
- If you are running Windows 2000 in your environment: Migrate your Windows 2000 PCs to Windows Vista as soon as possible. Extended support for Windows 2000 ends Q2 2010, and as an enterprise customer, you may soon find your business’s critical applications are unsupported.
- If you are in the process of planning or deploying Windows Vista: Continue your Windows Vista SP1 deployment. If you’re really in the early stages or just starting on Windows Vista, plan to test and deploy Windows Vista SP2 (on target to RTM Q2 2009). Moving onto Windows Vista now will allow for an easier transition to Windows 7 in the future due to the high degree of compatibility.
- If you are on Windows XP now and are undecided about which OS to move to: Make sure you taken into consideration the risk of skipping Windows Vista, which I am discussing below. And know that deploying Windows Vista now will make the future transition to Windows 7 easier.
- If you are on Windows XP now and are waiting for Windows 7: Make sure you take into consideration the risks of skipping Windows Vista, and plan on starting an early evaluation of Windows 7 for your company using the beta that’s available now. Testing and remediating applications on Windows Vista will ease your Windows 7 deployment due to the high degree of compatibility.
Given an estimated 71 percent of business PCs are still running XP, Microsoft's advice to upgrade from XP isn't overly surprising. The biggest competitor to Vista and/or Windows 7 isn't Linux or Mac OS X; it's XP.
Schuster said she has been talking to several business users every week for the last couple of months and is hearing the same questions over and over again. Is moving to Vista -- with Windows 7 in the wings -- futile at this point? Is Vista another "Windows Millennium" -- an operating system Microsoft quickly backed and then abandoned, heading off in another direction with Windows XP? If customers already have started Vista deployments, should business customers abandon them and prep for Windows 7 instead?
"I'm not advocating Vista or 7. I'm just saying they should be getting off XP," Schuster told me when we chatted earlier this week.
Microsoft is retiring XP SP2 support in April 2009; XP SP3 support isn't going away until 2014. (Microsoft isn't advising business customers to count on SP3 to extend the life of their existing operating systems. Why patch again an operating system originally introduced in 2001? Schuster quipped. I suggested containing costs might be one reason....) Plus, Schuster argued, a number of app vendors are phasing out support for their XP applications.
"Typical enterprise organizations tend to have between 500 and 5,000 different applications deployed across their environments," Schuster said. "Users need to find out how long these apps will be supported on XP and when (ISVs) are planning to certify the new versions of these apps on Windows 7."
In the interim, she said, business users should shell out for MDOP, Microsoft's Desktop Optimization Pack -- a collection of deployment and virtualization tools designed to make running legacy apps and migrating to new OS releases easier. (MDOP is available for purchase by Software Assurance volume licensees only.)
XP users: With IT budgets being slashed, what's your latest upgrade game plan? Are you going to move to Vista any time soon? Wait for Win 7? Or is it XP SP3, here you come?