Will Windows 7 be Microsoft's biggest business hit ever?

Will Windows 7 be Microsoft's biggest business hit ever?

Summary: Last week, the Internet echo chamber went crazy over the release of a survey about how soon businesses plan to adopt Windows 7. I've looked carefully at that survey and at a second, newly released survey of IT pros in large businesses. If these surveys are accurate, Windows 7 has the potential to be Microsoft's most successful business OS ever.


Last week, the Internet echo chamber went crazy over the release of a survey conducted by Dimensional Research on behalf of its client KACE. The survey asked more than 1100 IT professionals about their plans to deploy Windows 7, and the headlines, based on a few preliminary reports, were a predictable mish-mash of Microsoft bashing. The most common themes in the hundred or more stories I scanned (most of them second- or third-hand reports, based on the same preliminary press releases) suggested that businesses are wary of Windows 7 and that IT admins prefer XP.

A new survey says 46% of businesses expect to begin their Windows 7 upgrades before the end of 2009

The most negative headline of all was delivered by VentureBeat, which has backed up the hearse for Windows 7 and is ready to cart it away: Study: Windows 7 could follow Vista to an early grave.

They’re wrong. If the data provided by Dimensional Research is accurate, Windows 7 is on track to be Microsoft’s most successful business OS release ever. And a second newly released survey from a technology-focused investment bank suggests that those numbers are indeed a realistic reflection of how businesses plan to approach Windows 7.

I downloaded the full Dimensional Research report (sponsored by KACE and available in PDF format) and read it closely. I compared actual adoption rates of Windows XP against the projected adoption rates predicted by the Dimensional Research study. My reading of the data suggests that the echo chamber got the story backwards.

Here, see for yourself:

The orange line indicates actual adoption rates for Windows XP in businesses, which were at about 10% after one year and had reached 38% by early 2005, more than three years after XP's release. The blue line is the Windows 7 adoption rate forecast by the Dimensional Research study.

According to Dimensional Research, more than 80% of IT pros plan to move to Windows 7 within 36 months of the survey date (which was in turn about six months earlier than the expected release date of Windows 7 in September of this year). That would be, by historical standards, phenomenal. Breathtaking, in fact.

Now, I have some issues with the Dimensional Research study, which is lacking some key details. For starters, they don’t offer any information about the size of the businesses that the survey respondents represent. And they didn’t ask about the specifics of their migration plans. So it’s hard to draw firm conclusions.

But the overall trend is confirmed by the results of another recent study, this one conducted by Pacific Crest Securities, an investment bank that focuses on technology. They asked 80 IT decision makers at enterprises with more than 1000 employees about their Windows upgrade plans. The results were startling:

  • 50% plan to upgrade to Windows 7 as soon as it is available
  • 46% expect to start the upgrade before the end of 2009, within months of Windows 7’s release
  • 55% of respondents expect to do system-wide upgrades, rather than upgrading as new PCs are purchased.

That’s astonishing.

Digging a little deeper into the survey results, I noted that 34% of respondents said they like what they have seen in Windows 7 but are delaying deployment for economic reasons; another 12% are delaying deployment "for product reasons," presumably meaning they want to see the final release and maybe even wait for Windows 7 Service Pack 1. Of the total responses to the survey, 96% said they "like Windows 7," and only 4% said they don't like it. An earlier survey of the same group in January had a "don't like" rating of 12%. Presumably, the increase in approval is based on familiarity with the beta release.

The Internet echo chamber, which is conditioned to run at the speed of Twitter, assumes that any tech product is a failure if it doesn’t achieve world domination in 30 days or less. Businesses, especially large enterprises, move at much more deliberate speeds. I’ve written about Windows adoption rates before (and in fact drew the data for XP adoption rates from that earlier post). Businesses need a year or so after a new Windows version is released to test their in-house software for compatibility and to plan a thoughtful migration strategy. When nearly half of IT pros in large businesses say they are willing to begin migrating to Windows 7 within months of its release, that is a profound indicator of its potential for success.

Topics: Operating Systems, Microsoft, Software, Windows

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    • My personal adoption plan ...

      ... is as soon as I have RTM code in my hands. I current have Build 7077 on a backup machine as well as a lame old Pentium-M laptop.

      Ont he other hand, my university maintains 3000+ student workstations which moves to Vista last Fall. Those workstations will be runnign Vista this Fall as well but I expect that they will be running Windows 7 by Fall 2010.

      Lots of my colleagues have been running Vista since mid 2007. A few late adopters are on XP still but not many. About 40% of our students are on Vistaand another 40% are on XP.
      M Wagner
      • It must be great to have constant expense and upheaval.

        Well done indeed.
        • Hmmm ...

          I have not needed to spend a penny on XP since 2001 so even the consumer UPGRADE cost to go to Vista Ultimate ($220) comes down to less than $37 per year from 2001 to 2007.

          Not a bad investment overall since Apple has had four upgrades to MacOSX (at $120 each) during that same period.

          Assuming that I would have to fork over another $220 to UPGRADE from Vista Ultimate to Windows 7 Ultimate, just two years later, that still comes out to $110 per year.

          Of course, I don't HAVE TO move to Windows 7 because today Vista SP1 is quite stable and SP2 will be free when it cames out this Summer.

          Were I still at XP, in 2009, the upgrade would still be $220 and the new per-year cost since 2001 would be under $28 per year.

          All in all, it doesn't seem to me that I have had to spend very much at all to stay abreast of the latest Windows technology.
          M Wagner
          • But...

            First, let me say, I am NOT intentionally trying to start a ridculous flame war. And, I am no fan of Mac or Windows. I use whatever is at my disposal and currently it's windows. I have absolutely no loyalty to anyone, as I feel i have been given no loyalty from anyone in the industry.

            For whatever reason, MS initially planned to make no new OS' after XP. But, apparently they dont like not making more money, so, they decided to make Vista. With 6 years to create a good OS, I anticipated Vista to be good. I find it annoying, and I hate the fact 64-bit has a hard time working with my older games and apps. Perhaps that isnt MS' fault, but, they get blamed.

            So, now, need I remind you, MS is now promising a new OS every 3 years. Whether we want it or not. So, what does this do to your little breakdown? It seems to me, that if you wish to keep abreast of the latest Windows technology, unless you buy OEM versions, you will have to spend a lot more than $110 a year to do so.

            Please don't try telling us how cheap MS is. They aren't. But, granted, despite all the flaws, overall, it works with more stuff; so I continue to use them.

            As far as upgrading to Win. 7, I will have to see. I was hoping MAYBE they would make it a little more backwards compatible than Vista. But, apparently, "If it doesn't work in Vista, it won't work in Windows 7" is just a little reminder, "I'm not ready to shell out even more money to MS".

            For the record, I have shelled out what i consider a small fortune to MS. Some of it my fault. Ok, all of it my fault. But, some I blame them. I skipped win 98, but, foolishly bought ME, thinking 5 years was sufficient time for an OS to pass. Besides, 95 was old and outdated, and barely worked on things. Because ME was so bad, I went with XP. Sadly, it wasnt any better than ME, initially. SP1 fixed a lot, and I had enough stuff that worked. Vista came out, I bought it. Although, I didnt hate it, I dont love it, either. I have too many unplayed games I spent too much on to not be able to play. So, I returned to XP. But, I had to purchase another XP disc. Now I have downgraded my computer to a system that has Vista 64-bit. But, that is a disaster, so I will have to upgrade to XP again. I was seriously considering Win 7, but, in all honesty, unless I find myself having played all the games to my satisfaction, I will undoubtedly tell MS to keep their hands off my money this time.

            I think MS is going to receive a lot of backlash, by completely dropping it's "free support" so quickly. If this means no more security updates, then I suppose that will trigger a lot more anger from XP users, and they will probably migrate to Apple. If MS keeps plugging the security holes, then, perhaps they will not have the backlash. But, imo, MS will find people lose patience with a new OS every 3 years. And MS pushing bad SPs, like SP3 for XP to make Vista seem faster, just wont cut it very long.
            • Security updates till 2014

              You write: "I think MS is going to receive a lot of backlash ... If this means no more security updates..."

              Security updates will be availabkle until at least April 2014 for all XP editions.

              As forthe pain of an OS update every three years, please show me a major OS that updates less often than that. In October of 2004, Ubuntu was at version 4.10. Today, 4-1/2 years later, they are about to release version 9.04. That is FIVE major upgrades in less than five years, or more than one every year. Apple has had four or five major updates (we can debate the meaning of major, but let's just count the ones they charged for) in less than eight years, with a new one about to come out later this year. That's a major update every 1.6 years.

              Every three years is actually not that often comparatively.
              Ed Bott
            • Thanks for that...

              I was sure I saw something to that effect, but, not positive.

              Is Windows 7 an update, or, a new OS? But, you somewhat make my point: as bad as MS is, they arent always as bad as the supposedly "good guys".
              And, yes, "ones they charge for" counts. Ones they don't, I wont. But, let's face reality here, don't you honestly agree, 3 years is still far too often? They just barely got Vista rolled out, and it's finally getting to the place where most people are comfortable with it, and now here comes Windows next. Even tho you have said people wont need to wait for 7 SP1, a good number of people will. By the time SP1 rolls out Windows Next will be talked about.

              But, I seriously doubt I'll be making a migration to Apple any time soon, either. Im not a windows fanboy, but, I recognize that it works with just about everything (just not all my games and apps. I take some of the blame for that. But, it just bugs me is all).
              In my response tho, I just wanted it to be a less biased response from him. Or, at least point out that it wont be as cheap as he is saying. Over the past 6 years, sure. But over the next 9, probably not.

              Thanks for the comment, and the verification. Appreciate it. And, yeah, I think your blogs are kinda MS biased, but, I appreciate them anyway.
            • You've kinda expressed how the MS business model is weak.

              It's because businesses won't continue to dance to the tune of Microsoft's irrelevant release cycles. The more that happens, the wiser people will get.

              I've been using Jaunty since about a month after it first became available for community feedback. I did the same with Intrepid. The whole upgrade cycle was a complete breeze. Enter the command line "sudo update-manager -d" and the rest is automagic.

              It's one of those rare occasions when you need to reboot a Linux box.

              Two upgrade cycles, three machines, only one minor soundcard driver problem, and around 2 days later that was fixed by updates. Yes, "UPDATES", it's a testing and feedback cycle so updates are paramount.
            • Please define the meaning of upgrade.

              As you kindly said, Apple and Ubuntu have updated 4+ times since 2004. But they have also upgraded the user experience. Vista was such a mess that the clear distinction between upgrade and update got blurred. Although the visual experience got a "face lift", the overall experience was "degraded". That's the reason why Vista was a real failure, people who had the power to avoid it did. Since the common customer didn't have that power, Vista appeared as a success.

              That was Microsoft's mistake. Now Windows 7 looks more like a Service Pack 4 for Vista. No real reason to upgrade, just updating to eliminate "crappy" Vista. But would this make Windows 7 a success. Far from likely, 'cause people are not going to pay for fixing something they didn't asked for.

              Don't let biased (and I mean bia$$$ed) authors like this, and Report$ like this trick you. Windows 7 is as dead as Vista in a 36 month timetable.

              Edsel didn't kill Ford but opened the way for Japanese small cars. When? After the oil crisis. Do your math.
          • Ahh.. But how much time have you wasted?

            Re-installing due to malware, bad apps/corrupt
            registry. Or, just plain ol' slow-downs.

            Surely, you don't enjoy wasting your time
            nursing Windows back to health. Do you?
            • That is just over exaggerated FUD.

              In a business environment where the clients are locked down, GP is great since you can give granular access and have the finest control over your Windows installations, you never have to "waste time reinstalling". If you give your users local admin rights on their clients, then that speaks of your ability to manage in IT, not a negative for MS.
              Windows being a snap to install and Vista taking all of 20 minutes, means if that ever does happen, it's really just a minor bump. But it never does in a controlled environment, so the point is moot. <br>
              If you are talking about personal usage, well then I can only say that my 2002 Toshiba XP pro satellite laptop just got it's first reinstall last week. And the only reason I did it was because my Son now uses it and that was the fastest way to uninstall the myriad apps and utilities I had installed that he is nowhere near ready for. No other reason. It was still fast on the orignial install, relative to all of the services it was running with my insatiable desire to have everything loaded from my MSDN subscription that is possible on an XP client.
              Bottom line, your point is moot for professionally managed windows sites as the clients are never "toyed" with and when that is the case, they never (at least not in an 8 year span) need the OS reinstalled.

            • Apparently you haven't been to my workplace.

              "Bottom line, your point is moot for professionally managed windows sites as the clients are never "toyed" with and when that is the case, they never (at least not in an 8 year span) need the OS reinstalled."

              I respectfully disagree. Our Windows? clients have had two reinstallations just this year. This is mainly because where I work we have immature college students facebooking and myspacing while they are working, and eventually some piece of malware/scareware/&cware gets installed and, much to my chagrin, the sysadmins reinstall the OS instead of fixing the problem. Maybe it's just the sysadmins at my particular place of employment, and it could also very well be the case that they are overworked and under appreciated (they sure seem like it).

              I suppose the bottom line is, ignorance and laziness lead to reinstallation no matter the environment.
            • Ok, ready for this....The Internet is the problem. Would you ever....

              even consider building a network anywhere that was designed to have security managed on the end points? <br>
              I realize the internet is unlikely to change much anytime soon, but I think there are things that should be automatically done by all ISPs.
              As with your network at work, or home, ideally you want your protection to start at the network entry point(s). Since the internet is one huge network with many "entry" points, it seems that the ISPs could and should play a bigger role in guaranteeing content.
              If you pay for cable and your TV started to get porn playing on your kids channels or something you'd drop the cable company in a heartbeat, but people don't expect the same level of service from their ISP.
            • @athaki - Yours is not atypical of workplace malaise

              ... but it still doesn't excuse the fact that your network & machines are being HORRIBLY managed.

              If your admins were offered the opportunity to train and given the ability to actually manage the environment (rather than just react to issues), they would, I am CERTAIN, lock down your machines so that "college students" could not affect any area outside of their own profile. If they then screwed up their own environment, all you'd have to do is dump their profile and recreate it at next login.

              In a well managed environment, no users should be able to install anything without the sysadmin's approval, and should not be able to change any settings that affect any other users.

              Windows is VERY manageable and with some simple tools (group policy distributed to all client machines, for example) practically EVERY aspect of the OS can be easily configured. You can also run scripts/tools at logon/logoff, etc., to make sure that the machine is configured suitably, scan for corrupted / inappropriate content, etc.

              The fact that they don't simply reflects the lack of professionalism in your organization.

              It doesn't matter if you're running Windows, *n*x, CP/M or Commodore 64's ... if your environment is poorly managed, you're only ever going to be spending your time plugging fixing problems, rather than creating a safe, stable environment.
            • Nope, I don't like wasting time...

              But my old desktop got a fresh re-install of XP after 4 years, when I passed it on to my girlfriend's daughter, it never slowed down, never suffered from corrupt apps...

              My laptop was the same, it ran for a couple of years on Windows XP without a rebuild, until I used it as a Linux testing platform...

              My current Vista machine is 18 months old and never been re-installed. It is still nippy, nippier than my works XP machine, but I don't have any control over the build, and that was new in December.

              If you don't install every bit of trash that comes your way, Windows is fine, it doesn't slow down drastically, if it is loaded with a core set of apps, which remain stable...
            • None in almost 5 years

              I've never re-installed, or cleaned, or anything.
              As long as you do not install stupid crap from the net, no problems. If there is something you cannot live without (but you've been living till now without), a few minutes with Google will give you a pretty clear idea if whether or not you'll run into trouble. Your nightmares are my friend.

              Firefox w/ NoScript helps on the drive-by malware problem. IE simply says "give it to me baby."

              I used to think Windows slowed down, but I do not think that so much anymore. Sure, a new computer will make mine look slow, but I think it runs just as fast, or slow depending on how you look at it, as it did the day I bought it.

              Windows IS horrible with file fragmenting .. I admit ... and the built in defrag is far from optimal .. so I use a different defragger .. often.

              I tend to waste time healing others, who consistently ignore my advice. On the second time, I go through the advise again and inform them this is the last time I will "fix" it ...

              seems to work with all but one.
        • Most are on site licences

          Most of these organisations are on Microsoft select which allow them
          to pay a fixed licence fee each year which allows them to access all the
          latest and greatest technology - and I know in the case of the New
          Zealand government that employee's are also allowed to install these
          onto their home computer as so long as they are employed by the said
          government department.

          The amount it costs for the software is hardly anything - the big cost
          is actually the deployment; then again, I've got very little experience
          deploying large fleets of windows computers as the place I used to
          work had 500 Mac's and they were upgraded via Netboot - nothing
          was backed up off the individual desktops because all the user stuff
          was stored on the server.
        • A slight exageration!!

          As already noted, MS actually releases a new OS [i]less[/i] often than the competition, so not really sure what you're on about.

          When you think about it, three years is a heck of a long time in the IT world. You compare the standards of your average PC/notebook 3 years ago with what is available now, usually for less dollars. Advancements in what a computer is newly capable of, means OS designers can go places that three-years hence would have been little more than pipe dreams. Simply updating or patching an earlier OS to increase capability is not really sufficient, and usually leads to exploitable holes.

          And when you realise that the majority of us replace our computer more regularly than 3 yearly (businesses often 12-18 monthly), a new OS rollout is not the major drama some hype it up to be
  • What are your adoption plans

    It is clearly time to move on to Win 7 and stop milking XP to death. Most testing I've done on Win 7 has been trouble free and runs quite well. In almost all cases it runs faster than XP on the same hardware setup where Vista never would. This is pretty amazing in itself.
    union pier
    • IT doesn't have much choice

      IT doesn't have much choice, does it? XP needs to be EOLed. Businesses don't really want Vista, and that's been made very clear. Given the time frame for the XP EOL, businesses need to be assessing 7 NOW, not in two years. Accordingly, most are planning a migration beginning at the end of the year, when 7 appears.

      An interesting and overlooked part of this survey is that 14% of businesses are _actively moving_ to a non-Windows OS. Two-thirds go to something Linux-based while 27% are going to OS X.
      • While I understand what your getting at...

        Corporations are not moving to Linux. I wish it were true felt let down enough by MS with vista to switch all the PC's I own to Ubuntu. But as a professional I can't recommend it, Too many money making apps we need to run our businesses' will not run on Linux. in my case I have 2 programs that I absolutely can not live without. American Contractor & AutoCAD Neither will run on Linux. But here's the real catch, American Contractor will not run on Vista (or Win7 unfortunately) so it's not an option either until the next generation of the program when they make one that's compatible. Not to mention AutoCAD turns into a buggy bag of doggy doo on Vista.