Microsoft Extends Windows 7 Enterprise Trial Program

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2010-04-04 Print this article Print


While Microsoft has enjoyed some positive signs on the consumer side of things as of late-according to a recent report from Forrester Research, around 86 percent of surveyed Windows 7 users said that they are satisfied with the operating system-there are still signs that businesses are slow to adopt Windows 7, its flagship product.

On March 30, Microsoft announced that it will extend its Windows 7 Enterprise Trial program to Dec. 31, 2010, due to what an official blog post termed "popular demand." The 90-day trial edition of Windows 7 Enterprise is offered in both 32- and 64-bit versions, and is intended to assist IT administrators in testing applications and deployment strategies. In September 2009, Microsoft claimed that the program would only extend to "a limited number of licenses" and continue "while supplies last."

Those who install the product have 10 days to active it; after the 90-day testing period has concluded, the operating system is coded to shut down every hour. Users who wish to upgrade to the full version of Windows 7 Enterprise will then need to perform a clean install.

But the news that Microsoft will extend the program follows reports from January through March that the company was seeing a slow uptake of Windows 7 by businesses, despite claims that some 90 million licenses for the operating system had been sold since its October 2009 release. During a Morgan Stanley investor conference on March 2, Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Peter Klein told the audience that an enterprise tech-refresh cycle, following the worst economic downturn in generations, was still some time away.

"There will be an enterprise refresh cycle," Klein said. "It's not precisely certain when that will happen or how fast that will happen, but we expect it to happen this calendar year and go into next calendar year, and that will be a really good catalyst for growth for our PC business."

During a Jan. 28 earnings call, Klein remarked to media and analysts that Microsoft had "not seen a return to enterprise software growth."

His comments were echoed at the time by Bill Koefoed, Microsoft's general manager of investor relations, who said that "weak business PC sales" were hampering the company's enterprise software business. "Conditions from last quarter remain unchanged," he added, with regard to business IT spending.

Those reports of weak enterprise and SMB (small to midsize-business) sales suggest that Microsoft's latest offer for its Windows 7 Enterprise Trial Program might be driven by a need to expand that particular market. A January study by analytics company Net Applications found that decade-old Windows XP occupied some 66.15 percent of the U.S. operating system market, compared with 7.57 percent for Windows 7 and 17.47 percent for Windows Vista.

Whether or not Windows 7 gains more short-term traction among businesses, Microsoft can at least assure itself that the operating system is far more commercially successful than Microsoft Bob, the now-defunct operating system that marked its 15-year anniversary on March 31. Intended as an easy-to-use desktop interface for technology neophytes, Bob turned programs into furniture icons scattered around cartoonish-looking "rooms." However, high hardware requirements and poor advance reviews helped doom Bob, which was shut down by 1996, around a year after its release.

At the very least, Microsoft may have learned some lessons about the consumer market from that.

Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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