Are Windows 7 PCs a dead end for business?

Moderated by Larry Dignan | February 3, 2014 -- 07:00 GMT (23:00 PST)

Summary: Ed Bott and Matt Baxter-Reynolds debate where Windows 7 fits into enterprise decisions about this brave new world of Windows 8.

Ed Bott

Ed Bott




Matt Baxter-Reynolds

Matt Baxter-Reynolds

Best Argument: Yes


Audience Favored: No (74%)

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

Let’s start the debate by defining our terms

Ed Bott: A "Windows 7 PC" is a desktop or portable PC that was designed specifically for use with Windows 7. That means a hardware generation that was largely defined during the Windows Vista era, from 2006 through 2009. Crucially, those PCs lack support for key features that are essential to a modern device in 2014:

  • UEFI and Secure Boot. If you want to steer clear of rootkits, these are essential.
  • Pervasive encryption. Modern PCs have the built-in capability to do strong encryption.
  • Touch support. Touch is an essential aspect of a modern UI. Someday soon, a device without touch will just seem odd.
  • Great power management. Essential on mobile devices, but also important for keeping costs down in desktop-centric enterprise deployments.

If you’re buying PCs that fulfill those criteria, go ahead and downgrade them to Windows 7 temporarily while you plan your migration to a more modern environment. But if you assume that the OS is the only piece of the puzzle that matters, you’re making a big mistake.

Don’t settle for outdated technology because it’s superficially familiar. That’s a dead end.

Prudent to wait and see

Matt Baxter-Reynolds: For me, this debate is whether to jump to Windows 8 at this point in time or not. Windows 7 is obviously a modern and capable operating system that will run all of the enterprise software that you need to run.

Windows 7 is the staple desktop environment for enterprises. It's been out for years, is well-honed, and well-trusted. Hardly anyone was on, or is still on, Windows Vista. If you're on XP, you have some real problems. Most enterprises are already on Windows 7.

Windows 8 is not well loved. And it's unfair that it's not. Windows 8 is a good operating system. In important ways it builds on Windows 7 and provides solid improvements. Windows 8 just takes some getting used to. But right now, at this moment, Microsoft's whole Windows vision is in a state of flux.

Microsoft -- perhaps the most customer-led and customer-response business in the IT industry -- is listening to customers and changing things in Windows 9.

For me, it would be prudent to wait and see what that brings before jumping off of (or over) Windows 7.


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  • Keep up

    I know not all "new stuff" is essential for a business, but it is important to keep up awareness and skill sets for new technologies. There is no way for you to argue anything unless you try it. Every business should have at least one department that runs latest technologies.
    Sean Foley
    Reply 32 Votes I'm for Yes
    • Windows 7 hands down

      I've been using Windows 8 for ~3 months now. It's technically great. Stable. Good features. Good under-the-hood stuff.

      But, it's GUI is a flop. I've migrated back to the Windows 7 way of doing things with a Desktop. I boot directly to the desktop. I've installed StarDock to be able to turn Metro apps into Desktop apps (very handy, albeit somewhat buggy). I've got a cludge that puts the Programs directory onto the taskbar as a sad Start menu. Basically I gave Windows 8.1 a chance but ended up abandoning it's interface because it simply DOESN'T work. I like some Metro apps and have figured out how to get them to sort-of exist in Desktop mode which is why I haven't simply formatted and gone back to Windows 7 (which I did on the family laptop)

      If you're a tablet user. Sure. If all you do is browse the web. Sure. Windows 8 will work for you on a laptop or even a desktop. But, if you use ANY productivity software where you have to switch between apps, you're toast.

      Corporate IT departments buy hardware with a 3 year lifespan (that's the typical life of a service plan/warranty and also the cycle over which they maximise tax write offs). Buying 2011 or 2012 era hardware suited to Windows 7 is more than fast enough for 95% of desktop users. MS Office, browsers, custom apps will run just fine on that hardware.

      Windows 8 is a flop. No IT department will spend the resources to transition their users to Windows 8. The half-baked interface is ineffective and would require too much training to have people use it effectively. The vast majority of technical benefits of Windows 8 can be replicated in Windows 7 and, those that can't don't really matter in a well designed environment (UEFI Secure Boot, for e.g.). They're going to wait until Windows 9 to test the waters. And, besides, the biggest "feature", touch is nothing more than a gimmick on the desktop.

      If I were Microsoft I'd be worried about the competition at this stage. Windows XP is done like dinner. A lot of big organisations are being FORCED to upgrade from an OS that worked (XP worked and worked WELL in a corporate, locked down environment) and they're upgrading to Windows 7.

      Windows 7 is already FIVE YEARS OLD and its support is set to expire in the not-so-distant future. While some IT departments were able to build an infrastructure that lasted 13 years (and amortized the costs over a decade) they're now looking at supporting an OS that will be out of support in less than half that time.

      Virtualization environments are becoming better and also platform agnostic (Macs vs. Android vs. generic Intel mobo), and, sometimes even abandoning proprietary code altogether (think of WINE) capable of running custom apps independent of the OS.

      And, software like Chrome and LibreOffice are available for any OS. Chrome is THE browser to beat and LibreOffice provides 95% of the functionality most corporate users require without a whole lot of retraining. If Microsoft isn't careful they may lose a chunk of the desktop market to the Linux competition, especially as more and more services are moved on-line into the domain where Chrome completely dominates.

      However much I dislike the Chromebook, it's simplicity is a direct threat to Windows. By expanding the Chromebook to be a real Linux beast (capable of running local apps) Google could have a true competitor to Windows on its hands. By sticking to the web-only approach I think Google is limiting its potential too much--as is I think they're going to hit a ceiling in adoption pretty quickly.
      Reply 50 Votes I'm Undecided
  • thoughts

    "UEFI and Secure Boot. If you want to steer clear of rootkits, these are essential."

    Although I should note that rootkits are rare. I hear a lot about trojans and social engineering, but rootkits I don't hear much about.

    "Pervasive encryption. Modern PCs have the built-in capability to do strong encryption."

    Not unique to Windows 8; Windows 7 has all of the same encryption capabilities, AFAIK.

    "Touch support. Touch is an essential aspect of a modern UI. Someday soon, a device without touch will just seem odd."

    Meh. You're just odd ;).

    It would actually be very odd to try to touch my dual screens, which actually aren't close enough to me to touch without some effort.

    I have a PC because I have a nice dual screen setup. Not because I want to touch things. If I want to touch things, I'll buy a tablet.

    "Great power management. Essential on mobile devices, but also important for keeping costs down in desktop-centric enterprise deployments."

    Again - not unique to Windows 8, as far as I know.

    "Don’t settle for outdated technology because it’s superficially familiar. That’s a dead end."

    Although I should note that yes, I am running Windows 8. If you slap Start8 onto it and ignore Metro, it's basically a fast Windows 7.

    And my PC will run rings around any touch screen device on the market today, thanks. Who said I'm using outdated technology? Just because I'm not playing with touch screens doesn't mean I'm running outdated tech.

    The biggest problem I see is that Microsoft jumped to touch-first when nobody had touch devices. The result is basically a catastrophe for mouse and keyboard users - which was, and still is, one of the primary methods of input for a PC. I doubt they will be going away any time soon, either.

    Basically: The whole concept of going touch everywhere is a failure.

    It doesn't make sense.

    Touch makes sense when you're mobile. On a train, it makes sense. On a plane, it makes sense.

    It doesn't make sense at a desk. I get zero benefits from touch sitting at a desk.

    So as long as Windows 8 is seen as an incredible failure, I'd say no, Windows 7 isn't a dead end.

    Most businesses are gonna wait for Windows 9 at this point. And if Windows 9 doesn't live up to their expectations, I expect some ship jumping.
    Reply 64 Votes I'm for No
    • In my opinion...

      The final business tablet is going to address all your concerns about tablets and touch. It will have HDMI, wireless capability (either proprietary or Blue Tooth) for peripherals and I would argue bigger screens without adding additional serious weight.

      As I stated in another thread, the Surface Pro is close...but it's simply to expensive for mass deployment even if you take away the issue of user learning curves.
      Angelo Brattoli
      Reply 30 Votes I'm Undecided
      • Miracast Anyone?

        Does it need to be larger if you simply lay it on a wireless charging pad next to your existing 22" 16:9 desktop monitor with a keyboard and mouse and presto? Instant desktop?
        Reply 32 Votes I'm Undecided
        • Wireless not the solution

          Miracast wouldn't work in a large business setting because 2.4 and 5.8Ghz bands would be too congested to be usable in an office.
          Jeff Kibuule
          Reply 26 Votes I'm Undecided
      • What problem is solved by doing this?

        "The final business tablet is going to address all your concerns about tablets and touch."

        From what I can tell, trying to shoehorn a tablet into a desktop role is simply an example of technological prejudice against the desktop; what problem is solved by doing this?

        I don't see any advantage to having to plug and unplug my monitors (and other wired peripherals) every time I want to sit at my desk.
        Reply 39 Votes I'm Undecided
        • The "price tag" problem

          Tablets are cheap. PCs aren't. If all you need is on the intranet, tablets are better.

          Provided you can connect them to a monitor and crucially a keyboard. This means a Surface or similar third party device.

          MS desperately needs a cheaper Surface with a Chromebook price tag. If they pull that off without getting sidetracked by office politics, they can kill the business Chromebook and take the market back. If not, they're a goner.
          Reply 17 Votes I'm Undecided
          • PCs are, though.

            "Tablets are cheap. PCs aren't."

            PCs aren't? You can get PCs for virtually any price tag. Tablets aren't really cheaper.

            Here are some PCs at Chromebook-like prices:


            Reply 27 Votes I'm Undecided
          • Those appear to be all Windows 7...

            Not Windows 8, which would support the "YES"

            And the desktops are all 32 bit systems, not 64.
            Reply 42 Votes I'm Undecided