Microsoft pushes business users to start Windows 7 upgrades now

Windows 7's consumer launch is just over a month away. But there's no reason business users should delay their Windows 7 deployment plans, according to the company.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Windows 7's consumer launch is just over a month away. But there's no reason business users should delay their Windows 7 deployment plans, according to the company.

To accentuate its point, Microsoft is rolling out the new version of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) -- a bunch of deployment-focused tools available to its volume licensees with Software Assurance contracts -- months earlier than expected. Instead of holding up the new MDOP release until early 2010, as it originally planned, Microsoft is going to ship MDOP 2009 R2 at the end of October 2009 and then provide the updated MED-V virtualization tool to business users via a service pack once it is available in early 2010.

(MED-V is the application-virtualization software based on the Kidaro technology Microsoft acquired in 2008.)

"Windows 7 is ready to deploy now. Enterprise customers don't have to wait," said Microsoft Senior Director Gavriella Schuster.

Microsoft made the final Windows 7 bits available to its business customers with volume licensing agreements starting in August.  Consumers who want the new OS preloaded on new PCs will have to wait until the general-availability date of October 22.

On September 14, the Windows team also released several new case studies about companies that have been part of Microsoft's Windows 7 early-deployment programs. The idea is to prove that there are real and provable dollar and time savings for companies in moving to Windows 7 and MDOP. In other words, if they can do it, you can, too....

Microsoft execs are getting more forthright in admitting what numerous market researchers have found: Vista never really took hold with many corporate customers and Microsoft's biggest challenge will be to convince budget-constrained enterprises that they should move off XP.

Schuster, with whom I had a chance to speak late last week, acknowledged that many IT pros have a lingering bad image of how difficult and costly it was to roll out XP to thousands of users.

"Back then, when we rolled out XP, IT managers had very few tools, just things like WAIK (Windows Automated Installation Kit) and WinPE," she said.

But with Windows 7, there are lots of pre-deployment aids, deployment tools, virtualization tools and Solution Accelerator samples and guidance to make rolling out the new OS less of a chore, Schuster said.

What about companies which still believe that it's unwise to move to a new operating-system release before Microsoft issues a Service Pack (SP) for it? Starting with Vista, Microsoft tried to convince corporate users that the old "wait for SP1" adage was outdated (but bungled the way it attempted to do so, by refusing for months to say when and if Vista SP1 would arrive).

"We are trying to get the word out that Windows 7 is stable and the RC (Release Candidate test build) was really our gold image," Schuster said. "Will everyone believe that? No. There will always be some customers who will want to wait for SP1."

For now, Microsoft has no guidance for these customers as to when to expect the Windows 7 SP1, she said.

"We are still gearing up for our postmortems on Windows 7," she said, "so we don't have a plan in place yet for our SP1 rollout."

What about those corporate customers who are interested in rolling out multiple Microsoft products simultaneously so that they don't have to do two major upgrades -- as would seemingly be required for customers who want both Windows 7 and Office 2010, which isn't expected to ship until mid-2010?

Schuster had advice for those users, as well.

Users need to decide whether they plan to deploy Office 2010 across all their machines simultaneously, or whether they'll do a staged release, using application virtualization, for example. Whichever way they decide, it's not too early to kick the assessment and planning phase of their testing off now, she said, since hardware and application compatibility testing prior to the deployment of a new version of Windows typically takes companies six months or more.

"Operating system deployments take a lot of work," Schuster acknowledged. "Users can start testing the hardware now and then decide whether they want to make Office 2010 part of their golden image or not later. You could decide to leave Office 2007 in your golden image, or put Office 2010 in using virtualization and then flip the scenario once you're ready."

Corporate users: What's your take? Are you planning to kick off your Windows 7 deployment plans any time soon? Why or why not?

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