Microsoft made a huge bet that Windows 7 would not only erase the stigma associated with Windows Vista, but also help its own flagging revenues by impelling a massive tech refresh on the part of businesses and consumers. In the months since the operating system's October 2009 release, much of that bet seems to have paid off; although business IT spending remains anemic following a global recession, Microsoft claims that some 90 million Windows 7 licenses have been sold.
A percentage of that success could be due to a generalized need for a tech refresh. By the time Windows 7 hit store shelves, the majority of the world's PCs were using the nearly decade-old Windows XP, and many users' machines were aging into the realm of the truly silicon-geriatric. But Windows 7 also contained some features, including boosted backward compatibility with Windows XP applications and a smooth user interface, that managed to pull users in on their own merits. At the same time, though, and as with any large system, problems and kinks inevitably emerged.
"Everything I've heard has been pretty positive," Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates, wrote in an April 21 e-mail to eWEEK. "Of course, that's in the context of how bad Vista was. But Windows 7 is opening the gates for an overall corporate refresh that you could make a case is somewhat overdue."
Now that Windows 7 has been out for a few months, and Service Pack 1 is rumored to be in the works, eWEEK thought it worth casting an eye back to see what sort of issues IT administrators encountered with the operating system during its initial stage of release, and whether solutions have been devised.
Given the amount of enterprises and SMBs (small and midsize businesses) running Windows XP, it's perhaps no surprise that many of the IT administrators' complaints centered around the lack of an upgrade path between the older operating system and Windows 7.
"Many of my associates view the lack of a direct XP to Windows 7 upgrade path as -payback' from Microsoft for customers who rejected Vista," Henry Cobb, engineer and director of Auburn University's Research Electronics Support Facility, wrote in an e-mail to eWEEK in January. "I think that this could be the single most important fix that Microsoft needs to address."
At the time, Cobb and his colleagues were still evaluating Windows 7 for deployment, and generally finding that standard Windows XP applications ported smoothly over to the new operating system. However, Cobb also found Windows 7's OS footprint to be a point of minor concern.
"The -bloat' of the Windows 7 OS is most likely due to the number of people who are involved in the development of the code," Cobb wrote. "I'm sure this is done to speed the product out the door, but it results in code duplication as well as marginal features."
Complicating matters is the fact that Windows XP support is gradually ending, with extended support for Windows XP Service Pack 3 due to end in April 2014. In a presentation a few days before the release of Windows 7, a Gartner analyst suggested that a generalized lack of XP support from independent software vendors (ISVs) would start around the end of 2011, creating a nearer-term "danger zone" in XP application support by the end of 2012.
Concerned about Windows Vista's lack of backward compatibility for older applications and the public drubbing the company took as a result, Microsoft built Windows XP Mode into Windows 7, which runs applications within a virtualized Windows XP Service Pack 3 environment. It works with Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise editions, accessible via the Windows 7 task bar by right-clicking.
Some IT administrators and business owners, however, found Windows XP Mode to be slow to start up and run.
"I did set one machine up as virtual XP but [it] was slow and inaccurate," Lloyd Hudson, head of Tucson, Ariz.-based Financial Safeguards Group, wrote in a January e-mail to eWEEK. "If possible, Windows 7 needs to be more backward compatible."