Windows 7 has been released to manufacturing and is obviously the operating system that Microsoft and its partners will be pushing for the next two-plus years. If you're one of those business users who is in the midst of deploying Vista, what should you do?
Up until fairly recently, Microsoft was telling users to continue going forward with their Vista deployments if they'd already begun them, and to just skip Vista and go straight to Windows 7 if they were just starting them.
But in May, around the time Microsoft delivered the near-final Release Candidate (RC) test build of Windows 7, Windows execs stopped saying much at all about Vista. In fact, it was like pulling teeth to get them to talk about Vista Service Pack (SP) 2, in terms of discussing features, fixes and/or availability. At the company's recent Worldwide Partner Conference, the message was clear: As of May, any marketing campaigns that had been using the word "Vista" should be switched to refer to "Windows." Where does that leave big shops that bought into Vista? Are they deigned to be ridiculed and abandonned like Hester Prynne, forced to don a scarlet "A" (or, in this case, "V")?
Mike Angiulo, General Manager of Microsoft’s Planning and PC Ecosystem team, said Microsoft is not casting off its Vista users.
"We are not abandoning our existing Vista customers," Angiulo said. "A three-year cycle is the right amount of time" for the delivery of a new client operating system release to users, and that's just about how long it will be by the time it makes Windows 7 generally available, he said.
"A lot of the compatibility work we've done with Windows 7 will benefit Vista users," Angiulo added. Many of the drivers and applications that weren't compatible with Vista out of the gate are now ready for Windows 7 and, by extension, Vista.
When I spoke with Dell this week, the shift in messaging around Vista vs. Windows 7 was crystal-clear.
"A year ago, 87 percent of our commercial customers were on XP. Many are looking to skip a generation and go straight to Vista, Windows 7" said Jim Ginger, Global Lead of Dell's End User Services Computing Practice. (Sorry: my mistake on that one... MJF)
But like Microsoft, Dell is insisting that the Windows 7 push won't mean that Vista users get left behind.
"They can continue with Vista or start rolling out (Windows) 7. The two are similar enough that they will work harmoniously together" so having a mixed Vista/Windows 7 environment shouldn't be an issue, he said.
For customers who are still on XP, Dell will be suggesting they move straight to Windows 7 and will make that its emphasis with its Dell Optimized Deployment Services, which are aimed at helping corporate users with 1,000 seats or more.
Forrester Research released a new research note on operating system licensing trends this week that echoed the emphasis on Windows 7. From that July 22 note:
"While some clients describe Windows 7 as 'Windows Vista SP3' or 'what Windows Vista should have been,' Windows 7 will deliver a lot of new features that make it a proper successor to Windows Vista despite the fact that it’s quite clearly an evolutionary update rather than a revolutionary change. We expect most businesses will find compelling reasons for an eventual upgrade, such as simplified connectivity for mobile workers, improved branch office networking, tighter data security and more granular control of applications, and easier access to data across resources"
The note's authors added:
"Windows 7 is shaping up to be a suitable replacement for organizations that couldn’t justify an upgrade to Windows Vista, and it even has some firms that took the Vista plunge rethinking their upgrade strategy."
The U.S. Air Force is one such customer.
The Air Force, as of April of this year, had deployed 90,000 Vista laptops and desktops, according to one of my sources who has knowledge of the details of the contract. The Air Force evaluated and tested Vista between December 2006 to June 2008 and initially deployed the operating system among select bases to about 10,000 users before going further. The Air Force moved to Vista because of the security assurances it offered over XP, according to my source.
So what's the plan now that Windows 7 is going to be downloadable by volume licensees in a few more weeks? To move to Windows 7 as soon as possible, my source says. The Air Force has been testing Windows 7 internally for months and already has cleared the few app-compatibility hurdles it encountered moving users from XP to Vista.
I'm curious to hear from business users who are partially through their Vista deployments. What's your game plan now?