Microsoft Windows 7: Wait for the Release or Go with the Upgrade?

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2009-06-08

Microsoft Windows 7: Wait for the Release or Go with the Upgrade?

Last week, Microsoft announced that Windows Vista users will soon be able to upgrade to Windows 7 for free. Consumers who buy Windows Vista during Microsoft's upgrade period will receive a free copy of Windows 7 when it's released on Oct. 22. So far, there's no word on when Microsoft will start the free upgrade program. Recent rumors suggest it might announce the start of that program by the end of June. Either way, it's Microsoft's ploy to get people to buy Windows Vista and more importantly, keep buying computers, until Windows 7 finally hits store shelves this fall.

For some consumers, it might make sense. They can get that computer they want now and when Windows 7 is released, upgrade to the new software. For the impatient, it's a great option. But for the enterprise, companies that have a vested interest in ensuring their computers are running at the highest level at all times, it's a far more difficult decision to make. Installing Vista now makes it easier to upgrade to Windows 7 later this year. That said, buying new hardware, complete with Windows 7, is far more convenient.

Is it convenience or a desire to upgrade that should chart the enterprise's path going forward? Easy: convenience.

Companies shouldn't be upgrading to Vista

In the enterprise, companies usually replace existing hardware every three to four years. In that time, they upgrade software to ensure it's the latest and greatest on the market. But in recent years, that hasn't been happening. Save for those companies that decided to upgrade their hardware with XP just before Windows Vista was released, the vast majority of organizations today are suffering with outdated hardware out of fear of upgrading to Windows Vista. Instead of using an operating system that might cause severe compatibility issues and hinder their ability to do business, most organizations have instead chosen to get by with XP.

It's definitely time for an upgrade. But Vista isn't the answer now just because Microsoft will offer a free upgrade to Windows 7. Sure, Windows 7 might be ideal for the enterprise when it's released in October, but Vista hasn't changed. It's still bloated and it's still rife with incompatibility issues that will undoubtedly scare some companies away. A free upgrade path to Microsoft's latest operating system isn't changing that. Windows Vista is the same operating system before Microsoft announced the free upgrade. If companies didn't want it before, what makes us think they would want it afterwards?

Productivity Matters

There's another issue afoot that should make companies balk at upgrading to Vista to get Windows 7 for free: it's not conducive to maintaining employee productivity. 

Windows XP is much different than Windows Vista. Sure, it has the same basic elements as every other Windows operating system, but it's flashy, many of the files that were easy to find in XP aren't so easy to find in Vista, and its User Account Control feature is enough to scare even the most advanced employee away. Companies would need to spend considerable time teaching employees the nuances of Windows Vista. They need to explain to employees that the Windows they've grown accustomed to is gone. They would need to teach them how to maneuver around a new operating system that they simply aren't familiar with. It takes time.

And since it takes time, it doesn't make much sense to do it. By the time employees get comfortable using Vista, the company will be upgrading to Windows 7, forcing them to re-educate employees. So, for the months spanning July through October, productivity will probably be down. In this economy, that's unacceptable.

We also can't forget how much time IT managers will waste by following this strategy. They will need to get new computers, dole those out to employees company-wide, and only then get down to the business of educating employees on the new operating system. Once complete, they'll need to order Windows 7, install it network-wide and then educate employees all over again. It would be a nightmare.

One reason to upgrade to Vista?

There might be one reason why companies would consider upgrading to Windows Vista before they upgrade to Windows 7: the upgrade path.

According to Microsoft, Windows XP users won't have a direct upgrade path to Windows 7. Because of that, companies will be forced to copy files from a Windows XP machine and add them to the new Windows 7 computers.

But those who have Windows Vista installed will have a direct upgrade path. So, when Windows 7 is installed, all the files on the Vista computer will be automatically transferred to the Windows 7 installation. That makes it quite easy.

But is that enough? Of course not. 

It is time to upgrade to a new version of Windows. But Windows Vista to Windows 7 isn't the right path to follow. The enterprise should wait for Windows 7 -- and let Microsoft's free upgrade offer pass by. 

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