Aussie enterprises will embrace Win7

There appears to be no doubt that Windows 7 will be significantly more popular in Australia than Vista was, a reality that will help Microsoft entrench its wider software portfolio even further into the enterprise.

commentary When Windows Vista was released in late 2006, your writer spent quite a bit of time querying large Australian organisations on whether they would adopt Microsoft's flawed opus. The overwhelming answer, in short, was "no".

News editor Renai LeMay (Credit: Alexandra Savvides/ZDNet.com.au)

However, ZDNet.com.au has received a very different response over the past few weeks after asking the same question about the operating system that many people are starting to describe as "Vista done right".

There appears to be no doubt that Windows 7 will be significantly more popular in Australia than Vista was.

Despite the "in-testing" nature of the beta and release candidate versions of Windows 7 that have so far been released, there appears to be no doubt that Windows 7 will be significantly more popular in Australia than Vista was.

Already, large organisations such as Centrelink and Telstra have revealed long-range plans to adopt Windows 7, and others such as the Commonwealth and National banks are testing the operating system as a potential upgrade for their Windows XP installations.

This enthusiasm for Windows 7 is simply remarkable, given the extremely tepid response that its predecessor Vista received only several years earlier.

In one memorable occasion, Microsoft was unable to disclose to this reporter a single large organisation that was planning to deploy Vista, beyond a handful already known such as the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and iiNet, and despite advance warning of an imminent feature article on the topic.

Windows 7's favourable reception can be put down to two factors; as several reviewers have noted, it builds on Vista's strengths while eliminating its weaknesses and expunges the last vestiges of the XP legacy from Microsoft's new line-up. Vista, in places, could feel like a new coat of paint, with old XP features left untouched in places.

Secondly, like versions of Linux and Mac OS X first released in 2001, XP is simply not equipped to handle the computing requirements of 2009. A fact demonstrated by its feeble memory and CPU management when running a dozen applications simultaneously, its archaic interface, its lack of included drivers, and lastly, but most importantly for large organisations, its lack of robust tools for massive, unattended roll-outs and software upgrades.

In fact, there is a whole small segment of the IT industry devoted to building software tools around this last XP weakness, which, as many IT managers have publicly noted, is concretely addressed in Windows 7 and even Vista.

The enthusiasm can also be witnessed through the developing conversation amongst Australia's early technology adopter community, many of whom are using Twitter and other social networking tools to express their satisfaction with the early builds of Windows 7.

This is the same community that Apple has done such a good job of winning over in the past couple of years; and has spent that time proudly encouraging each other to shell out a few extra pennies for pricey MacBook Pros.

This enthusiasm for Windows 7 is simply remarkable, given the extremely tepid response that its predecessor Vista received only several years earlier.

Now many of those machines are also running Windows 7.

The 180-degree turnaround Microsoft has achieved in its operating system's fortunes since Vista is stunning on its own; but there is no doubt that it brings grander implications for Australia's ICT industry.

When many large Australian organisations finally dump ageing Windows XP operating environments for Windows 7, they will simultaneously update much of their other infrastructure, bringing other software and hardware into line with their new underlying desktop platforms.

In short, the impending wave of enterprise Windows 7 roll-outs is a chance for large organisations to slipstream other changes into their environments, much as they did with similar platform changes such as the deployment of IP telephony and the onset of virtualisation.

I would expect to see many IT managers and CIOs make the argument to their businesses to bundle Office 2007/2010, SharePoint, SQL Server, Windows Server, Exchange 2007/2010 and more upgrades with Windows 7 roll-outs over the next several years. It's my understanding that Microsoft's enterprise licensing schemes encourages this behaviour.

Such bundling activities will in the long term serve Microsoft's interests strongly and make it incredibly hard for other software giants to break into Redmond's territory. A demonstration, once again, that no matter how diversified a company Microsoft becomes, its success ultimately rides on its premier and most adopted product: Windows.

What do you think about Windows 7? Just another bloated Microsoft beast, or a sucker punch to the chin for the company's rivals and the dated XP?