Microsoft: Don't stop deploying Windows 7

Many companies still rolling out the Microsoft OS despite anticipated launch of new Windows iteration next year, but it's a move Redmond supports because it would be risky to skip existing OS flavor for next, company exec says.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Companies looking to leapfrog the current iteration of Microsoft's Windows operating system (OS), namely Windows 7, to Windows 8 should think twice, says company executive, who adds that developer feedback for the latest Windows platform has been encouraging.

Rich Reynolds, general manager of Windows commercial marketing, told ZDNet Asia in a phone interview Wednesday that Microsoft's internal research showed that 90 percent of companies polled indicated they had plans or were in the process of migrating from Windows XP or Vista, to the current OS release, Windows 7. The version was launched in 2009.

Within the Asia-Pacific region, Jason Lim, general manager of Windows Client at Microsoft Asia-Pacific, noted that the uptake of Windows 7 was "very similar to global trends" and he expects a high percentage to deploy the OS in the next couple of quarters.

Research firm Gartner earlier forecasted that 42 percent of all PCs would be powered by Windows 7 by end-2011 and 94 percent of all newly minted PCs would be sold with the current flavor of the OS.

For companies thinking of holding back on plans to refresh their operating systems, Reynolds said Microsoft's advice is for them to continue and accelerate deployment of Windows 7. It could lead to security risks for businesses to skip implementation of Windows 7 and wait for the release of Windows 8 since official support for Windows XP will end in April 2014, he said.

A Gartner research paper released on Sep. 19 also urged companies running on Windows XP and working on Windows 7 migrations to "continue as planned" and not switch to Windows 8 just yet.

Authors Michael Silver, David Cearley and Stephen Kleynhans pointed out that even though Microsoft did not reveal a shipping date for Windows 8, the predicted release date would likely be planned to target back-to-school buyers in mid-2012, in which case, the release to manufacturing would likely be around April 2012.

That said, even if the software giant were able to meet that "very aggressive timeline", the Gartner researchers said independent software vendors and enterprises would likely need 9 to 18 months to obtain and test supported applications and plan deployments. This also meant that the earliest Windows 8 deployment date for most organizations would begin only in 2013, they added.

As such, with support for Windows XP ending in 2014, the analysts said it would be "dangerous" for organizations currently running XP to skip Windows 7 and move directly to Windows 8.

Reynolds also pointed out that since all Windows 7 applications would run on the Windows 8 version, and the hardware requirements would be the same--if not less--for the next iteration, it would be a good "stepping stone" for companies to first get on the latest available OS version.

Enterprise focus remains
The Redmond executive also highlighted Windows 8 features that were relevant to the enterprise space, while acknowledging that much of the focus for the company's Build developer conference held in the United States last week was geared toward consumer apps.

Identifying IT consumerization as an ongoing trend in the global business realm, Reynolds said the software vendor had looked to make Windows 8 available to all users regardless of the working style and environment they were in.

To enable users to work from anywhere, he highlighted Windows to Go as a feature that enterprises would appreciate. With the tool, IT administrators will be able to configure a bootable USB stick for individual employees who can boot up their profile on any Windows 8-enabled device--including any downloaded apps--and work from the device. When the employee has completed his work, he then unplugs the USB stick and all traces of information will be removed from the device he was working on, he explained.

He also pointed to Secure Boot, which will automatically check for malware before the system boots up and before the existing antivirus software is operational. Push Button Reset is another feature that can be incorporated to enable IT administrators to reset to the default device setting or standard company profile, if they are pressed for time to restore faulty systems.

These features, along with others, underscored Microsoft's continued commitment to enterprise customers even as the OS evolved to target consumer-based devices such as tablets, Reynolds said.

The Gartner researchers said Windows 8 would be a "watershed release" for Redmond which, they said, was "hoping to reinvigorate its image in the consumer market". They noted that the popularity of Apple's iPhone and iPad demonstrated that consumer products were becoming increasingly important in the enterprise as users brought tools they used at home into work, and the new Windows release could enable Microsoft to compete "more effectively" with Cupertino in the tablet space.

Delivering vibrant, profitable app ecosystem
With regard to developer feedback since the OS was previewed, Reynolds said initial response had been encouraging and people were happy with the new tools to produce rich apps and the ability to rapidly deploy these apps. The newly supported development languages of HTML5 and JavaScript were also embraced, particularly by the many younger developers who were more familiar with Web technologies, he added.

According to Richard Edwards, principal analyst at Ovum, developers' buy-in was particularly important, given today's app-centric, consumer-oriented world. In a statement last week, Edwards said Windows 8's success would be measured by the revenue Microsoft was able to drive through its new Windows App Store.

He added that it would be a big challenge, where "failure is not an option", since the company would need to generate a new revenue stream as sales in other areas of its business declined.

Edwards did note that the signs were good for Redmond should it deliver on developing a vibrant app ecosystem. "The corporate market is currently exploring the idea of 'bring your own device' [strategy] and we believe that the timing of Windows 8 couldn't be better," he said.

However, should the software giant fail in its execution of its Windows ecosystem, it would then probably be "game over" for the Windows PC as people have come to know it, the analyst surmised.

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