Microsoft Windows 7 Upgrade Should Happen Sooner, Says Gartner

Microsoft's Windows 7 presents a range of potential benefits to the enterprise and SMBs, says research company Gartner. Between that and the eventual end of support for Windows XP, Gartner recommends that planning for Windows 7 begin now. Surveys from a variety of research companies indicate, however, that cash-strapped IT shops may postpone the operating system upgrade until the end of 2010 or beyond.

Microsoft Windows 7 is "not a major architectural release," according to an Oct. 13 presentation by research company Gartner, but more of a polish "on top of Windows Vista's architectural changes." Nonetheless, expiring support for older versions of Windows will compel IT shops running the Microsoft platform to upgrade to the newest version of the operating system.

"Typically, more than half your organization's apps require Windows," Gartner analysts Stephen Kleynhans and Michael Silver wrote in their presentation. "Replacing it is not an option." And Windows 7 offers applications and features that make it a solid upgrade, including better UAC (User Account Control), BitLocker and BitLocker To Go, AppLocker, Direct Access, and an updated user interface.

Driving the switch to Windows 7, the analysts argued, will be a more generalized lack of XP support from ISVs starting around the end of 2011, with a true "XP danger zone" developing at the end of 2012, roughly a year and a half before XP extended support ends. The majority of the enterprise and small and midsize businesses continue to run XP.

Gartner recommends eliminating XP infrastructure by the end of 2012, before Microsoft ends its security support in April 2014. Those still using Windows 2000 should stop doing so before security support ends in July 2010. For Vista, Gartner suggested continuing deployment on new PCs if already started, before switching to Windows 7 in 2011.

Click here to see 10 anticipated features of Windows 7.

The Gartner presentation also tackled the question of whether to upgrade to the 64-bit version of Windows 7. Among the benefits: an increase in address space and physical RAM, strong compatibility with drivers and applications, virtualization support, and security enhancements. However, Gartner cautioned, the 64-bit upgrade represents "no major benefit change," older devices could be problematic and some utilities such as VPNs are lagging.

For shops running Linux, Gartner recommended, "Check ROI and be selective."

The release of Windows 7 could cause a massive corporate tech refresh, according to a handful of analysts.

In an Oct. 12 report, Jefferies & Co. analyst Katherine Egbert wrote that "the Win7-inspired upgrade cycle can start in late 2010 and run through early 2013," adding, "We expect new hardware purchases to precede the software upgrades by about six months."

That report echoes earlier findings by Deutsche Bank that suggested companies will respond to the Windows 7 release on Oct. 22 with a massive upgrading of their IT infrastructure, particularly companies that plan on engaging in virtualization and 64-bit computing.

However, other reports have suggested that a majority of companies, perhaps concerned about their recession-diminished IT budgets, will delay upgrading to Windows 7 until the end of 2010. A handful of other background factors could potentially slow enterprise acceptance of Windows 7.

To help avoid this scenario, Microsoft has been aggressively pushing price cuts and promotional offers, including a free 90-day trial edition of Windows 7 Enterprise for IT administrators and other corporate professionals. Following a quarter of declining revenues, Microsoft is looking to Windows 7 to help boost its bottom line and reverse a downward earnings trend.