As Microsoft prepares for the release of Windows 7 in just two short days, the company needs to find a way to entice customers to buy it. Consumers might be the easiest prey, since a move to Windows would guarantee a switch to Windows 7. At this point, Windows Vista isn’t viable and Windows XP is too old. It’s an obvious choice.
But the enterprise is a much different story. On that front, the buyers are far less willing to switch to a new operating system for the sake of switching. Those customers want assurance that Windows 7 will provide the experience and productivity they require. For those companies, having that mindset limits bad decisions. For Microsoft, that mindset ensures that it will need to do much more to woo those customers.
Doing so will be difficult. But it won’t be impossible.
This is what Microsoft needs to do:
1. Admit Defeat
First and foremost, Microsoft needs to admit its mistakes with Windows Vista. The vast majority of companies decided against switching to Microsoft’s last operating system because it failed to provide them with the experience they expected. And in the process, it caused many of them to stick with Windows XP. Microsoft needs to acknowledge its mistakes and reassure companies that it hasn’t committed them again with Windows 7.
2. Show the Differences
Following that, Microsoft should highlight all the features that make Windows 7 an improved operating system. The company should show companies what the issues were with Windows Vista and how they were addressed in Windows 7. That should help allay some fears in the enterprise.
Although Windows 7 isn’t a totally secure operating system (there’s no such thing, after all), Microsoft should point out that it’s more secure than its predecessors. It should also provide some real data to back up that claim. Right now, many companies are still using Windows XP, and Windows Vista isn’t a viable alternative. If Microsoft can prove Windows 7 is more secure than XP, Microsoft will be well on its way to attracting corporate customers.
4. Windows XP Mode
If I had to pick a single feature that could cause corporations to move to Windows 7, it’s Windows XP mode. That feature allows users to run a virtual installation of Windows XP in the Windows 7 environment. For companies, it means that all the compatibility issues that plagued Windows Vista will most likely not be a problem in Windows 7. According to Microsoft, any legacy software or hardware that worked with Windows XP will work in XP mode. Not bad.
Tipping the Scale in Favor of PC Upgrades
5. Focus on Reliability
Microsoft continues to say that Windows 7 will be the most reliable operating system yet. If that’s true, the company should prove it to the enterprise. Most reviews have shown that Windows 7 is faster than its predecessors and, depending on how you calculate it, the operating system boots faster than Vista. But it’s the fact that Windows 7 comes packaged with all the stability of Windows Vista Service Pack 2 that should attract companies. Windows Vista is reliable now. Windows 7 is too.
6. A Same, New Design
Microsoft also can’t lose sight of the enterprise’s desire to maximize productivity. Switching from Windows Vista to Windows 7 won’t be a big stretch, since the latter uses the former’s Aero interface, but a switch from Windows XP is a different story. Microsoft needs to drive the point home that Windows 7’s learning curve isn’t all that great, since at the very heart of it all, the new operating system is Windows, regardless of its new look.
7. The Taskbar
Another key feature Microsoft should point out is Windows 7’s new and improved taskbar. That feature allows users to quickly sift through open windows to find the desired application. Most reviews have said that it significantly increases productivity and improves upon Mac OS X’s taskbar. It’s something to be mentioned to enterprise customers.
8. Talk About Netbooks
More companies than ever are considering a move to netbooks. Windows XP is the operating system that many of those companies are currently employing on netbooks. But as netbooks grow in popularity, it’s Windows 7 Starter Edition that will provide the best experience. Microsoft should remind companies of that and make it clear that if an organization plans to tie part of its budget to netbooks, Windows 7 should be the focus of that investment.
9. Call to Hardware
Microsoft can’t forget that many companies are using outdated hardware because of their fear of Windows Vista. They’re in desperate need of a refresh. But this need is also complicated by the prolonged recession, which is keeping IT budgets tight and in many cases slowing PC hardware replacements. The advent of Windows 7 can help convince IT managers that it’s time to find the money to invest in up-to-date computers and an operating system. Microsoft should focus its efforts on reminding them of that.
10. Look to the Future
Companies are always wondering what is on the horizon. If Microsoft wants Windows 7 to be a success, it needs to reassure them that this operating system will be carrying Microsoft into the foreseeable future. Sure, the company is already working on Windows 8, but companies need to know that Windows 7 will have the longevity that they require.
Because, in the end, longevity is what everyone is looking for.