Microsoft is still holding out on a Windows 7 OEM Preinstallation Kit for smaller system-builders until closer to the operating system's Oct. 22 general-release date - for a reason.
The OEM Preinstallation Kit is vital for installing customized copies of Windows 7 automatically on multiple machines, and releasing it early would give local system builders time to prepare for the demand that the new operating system is expected to generate among both businesses and consumers. However, despite expectations that the Kit would become available to system-builders in August, no sign of it has appeared yet.
A Microsoft spokesperson has issued a widely-circulated statement concerning the matter:
"Windows 7 OPKs are not currently available to system builders. As we close the general availability date, we expand the ways in which we made the new version of Windows available to include the system builder channel.
"We delay release to system builders for two reasons," the statement continued. "First, since system builders are typically local and have less complex supply chains, they can often go to market much faster than larger OEMs. Second, since system builders acquire product indirectly and are so numerous, there is no effective way for Microsoft to provide those partners [with] the product earlier and maintain the established general availability date."
Microsoft asserted that the system builder product would still be shipped to distributors "as we approach the general availability date on October 22, 2009."
Microsoft hopes that the release of Windows 7 will compel a tech refresh among both SMBs (small- to medium-sized businesses) and the enterprise, whose equipment had an average age of 6.1 years by 2008. Companies within the Microsoft ecosystem that could benefit from such a broad-based refresh include chipmakers such as Intel and Advanced Micro Devices, as well as system makers including Hewlett-Packard and Dell.
A recent survey by Deutsche Bank indicated that penetration rates for Windows 7 within businesses could exceed that of both Windows XP and Windows Vista. However, other studies have indicated that the penetration rate for the new operating system could be slowed by radically reduced IT budgets and a lack of time on the part of IT administrators to both install the system and train new users.