Gartner: Windows 7 is 'all but inevitable'

Gartner Group analysts are telling business users that they should look at Windows 7 as an "all but inevitable" Windows release. Here's what else Gartner is advising corporate users, regarding when, how and if to move to Microsoft's latest Windows release.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Gartner Group analysts are telling business users that they should look at Windows 7 as an  "all but inevitable" Windows release.

Because "typically more than half of an organization's applications still require Windows," said Gartner researchers during an October 13 Webcast for Gartner clients and others, replacing Windows is not a short-term option.

Gartner analysts Michael Silver and Stephen Kleynhans shared these opinions and more during an hour focused on providing business users with guidance about Windows 7 features, licensing and deployment.

Assertions from their presentation:

  • Windows 7 is not a major architectural release; it's a polishing of Windows Vista. Still, for businesses, there are "good things to be had" in Windows 7, including AppLocker, BitLocker to Go, BrancheCache, better User Account Control settings, an updated user interface and support for HomeGroups.
  • Business users should be cognizant of the downgrade/upgrade gotchas around Windows 7. For users who don't have Software Assurance (SA) contracts, Microsoft's limits on downgrades to XP (18 months from Windows 7's release or until the time Windows 7 Service Pack (SP) 1 is released -- whichever is earlier) could be problematic. If you don't have SA and don't purchase new PCs with a Windows 7 license within this window, you could end up paying $120 to $200 per PC for an upgrade license if you aren't ready to deploy Windows 7 right off the bat.
  • While Windows XP's extended support phase doesn't end until 2014, third-party application support for a new operating system typically begins to wane two years after the end of mainstream support. This means the XP "danger zone" is 2013 and beyond.
  • There's no need to wait for Windows 7 SP1 before starting to plan and test Windows 7. Because Microsoft releases most fixes and updates regularly over Windows Update/Automatic Update, there's no need to wait for SP1, which is basically a rollup of all these fixes. Microsoft officials aren't saying when they are planning to release SP1 for Windows 7, but Gartner is calculating it'll be some time in mid-2010, according to their charts.
  • Companies should budget 12 to 18 months to test and prepare for a new operating system release. Because Windows 7 had "a good beta," that period may be slightly shorter. But expect a 12-month window between Windows 7's release to manufacturing (which was July) and "maturity." Maturity, in this case, means full ISV support; the availability of sufficient training resources and a significant amount of "expertise to be built up in the market."

The Gartner folks conducted a few online polls during today's Webinar. According to one, 59 percent of the particpants never teted and ended up skipping Vista and another 24 percent tested Vista but still ended up skipping it. Those who did deploy Vista are likely to encounter significantly lower migration costs than those who didn't, Gartner said. Here's the chart with their calculations. (Click on the chart to enlarge.):

Another poll, which asked when Webcast participants planned to deploy Windows 7, found that 21 percent are planning to deploy in the first half of calendar 2010; 30 percent in the second half of 2010; 23 percent in the first half of 2011; and 20 percent some time beyond that. (Six percent of those polled said they plan to deploy in calendar 2009.)

Unlike consumers, businesses have not been early adopters of 64-bit Windows releases. Gartner's online poll regarding business plans for 64-bit versions of Windows 7 found 34 percent still planning to stick with 32-bit Windows 7 and 25 percent undecided, but learning toward 32-bit. Another 28 percent of those polled said they were undecided, but leaning toward a 64-bit Windows 7 variant, and 13 percent saying they planning to go primarily 64-bit. Gartner's analysts noted that 64-bit does proide more address space and access to more physical RAM, but offered users "no major benefit changes," as well as possible lack of availability of security, VPN and other applications/services.

Gartner's bottom-line recommendations for business users weighing what do do about Windows 7 (and when):

Many large enterprise customers still rely on Gartner for guidance. What do you think of the firm's advice on Windows 7?

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