Will Windows 7 Be a Swing and Miss in the Enterprise?

Microsoft is counting on Windows 7 to counteract quarters of declining revenue and Vista's unpopularity. IT professionals interviewed by eWEEK indicate mixed feelings about a move to Windows 7, with some demanding increased value-add before a switch and others jumping on the new client after skipping Vista.

Microsoft needs a substantial hit in Windows 7 to counteract quarters of declining revenues as well as Windows Vista's unpopularity. Some analysts say that a tech refresh centered on Windows 7 is in the cards for many SMBs and the enterprise, but interviews conducted by eWEEK suggest that adoption may not be immediate nor wholehearted on everyone's part.

This hesitation seems to stem from a couple of issues.

The first is cost. In the midst of a massive global recession, firms have been paring down their IT budgets and are less inclined to spend on a tech refresh. This has led to a dip in PC sales that has caused a ripple effect in Microsoft's cash flow: For the fourth fiscal quarter of 2009, Redmond reported that its year-over-year revenues had declined 17 percent.

The second reason for hesitation about Windows 7 relates to the legacy of Windows Vista, whose memory requirements, security issues and lack of backward compatibility with many Windows XP applications left many users feeling bruised. In turn, many of those users elected to stay with Windows XP and their old PCs, which by 2008 had an industrywide average age of 6.1 years, according to a report issued in July by Deutsche Bank.

"I wish I had never seen Vista," said Gerry Heimann of Raytheon, a major defense contractor. "I have removed it and returned to XP, SP3 and my old version of Office."

Heimann wanted to make it clear that his views were his own and not Raytheon's. That said, Heimann has no intention of embracing Windows 7 and Office 2010 as they stand now.

"I will never switch to Windows 7 or Office 10 unless Microsoft does a better job at creating a product that is user-friendly and improves the overall experience," Heimann said. "Vista has been a very unrewarding product and an uncalled-for cost."

In his frustration, Heimann is "looking very hard at moving to Apple," adding that Windows 7 and Office 2010 will present a potential value only if the products prove faster and easier for him to use than their previous iterations.

Other administrators who skipped Vista plan to upgrade to Windows 7. Among their number is Raymond McKay, a network/telecom manager for the MIS division of Warwick, RI. Early reports about the new operating system, as well as in-house testing of the pre-release product, left him "with a much better feeling about Windows 7 than Vista."

McKay's office didn't embrace Vista the first time around for a number of reasons, including budget and known driver issues for many of McKay's then-current machines.

"Also, we are an Active Directory shop," said McKay, "and did not see the need to upgrade the servers just to manage the new OS."

The jump from Windows XP to Windows 7, which will require a clean install and the backup of user information onto servers, is something that McKay has been planning out for some time. The initial steps of the Windows 7 upgrade will involve performing desktop refreshes with machines where the new operating system is pre-installed, before porting the new operating system onto some pre-existing machines.

It will be a substantial undertaking, but also an important one: McKay's desktops are aging, and the lack of a system refresh for 18 months has made an upgrade a necessity.