But, of course, there's a lot more to it than that. Solutions providers should know that there are as many chronological and economic reasons for why Windows 7 is taking off so quickly as there are technical ones.
However, based on any number of recent surveys and reports from companies, such as Information Technology Intelligence Corp. (ITIC), Dell Kace and ChangeWave Research, one thing is for sure: Windows 7 is getting a much more cordial reception from businesses than Windows Vista ever did. Microsoft reported sales of 60 million copies of Windows 7 by the end of 2009 -- about two months after its official release on Oct. 22, 2009, and six months after its release to manufacturing on July 22.
What does Windows XP have to do with Windows 7 adoption?
One of the driving forces behind the current and future adoptions of Windows 7 is Windows XP's lifecycle. Released in 2001, Windows XP remains the primary OS that businesses all over the world use. Because of XP's age, Microsoft has already dropped support for all versions of the OS, except Service Pack (SP) 3. On April 8, 2014, Microsoft will end all support for Windows XP, including security-related updates and hotfixes.
It's important for solutions providers to understand that timing is essential to successful OS introductions. The past two-plus years were tough economic times, and businesses of all sizes were being cautious and hanging onto their hardware budgets. Therefore, many organizations are either overdue or nearing the mandated time for a hardware refresh for at least some of their desktops. What better time for an OS migration as well? With the economy starting to show signs of improvement, customers are less opposed to buying new hardware and migrating to a new desktop OS, even if they're not yet enthusiastic about the time, effort and expenses involved.
Why consider Windows 7 adoption?
There are numerous reasons for customers to upgrade to Windows 7 that go beyond Windows XP's age or the hardware your customers are using. Surprisingly, many of Microsoft's highly touted features don't rank as well with customers as some of the mundane features.
A recent Computerworld survey asked IT professionals about Windows 7 features they had the greatest interest in. The top features from 205 respondents included faster boot and response times (69%), better device management (52%) and compatibility with Windows XP (47%, thanks in large part to Windows XP mode).
The survey also shed light on Windows 7 adoption plans. Sixty-two percent of respondents in answer to the question "Where or how will businesses deploy Windows 7?" said they planned to deploy on existing equipment, and 82% said they would deploy on new machines. In addition, 22% said they would use virtual desktop technologies.
Probably the most interesting and surprising answers came for this question: "When will your organization complete its Windows 7 transition?" Thirty-seven percent said they were already finished or would be within the next 6 to 12 months, with another 18% in 12 to 18 months. Only 7% said they wouldn't finish for more than three years.
These numbers indicate stronger interest and a much more receptive attitude toward Windows 7 than Vista ever elicited.
Other Windows 7 adoption points to ponder
The new tools and support available for automating Windows 7 deployment makes it easier to build, manage and deploy installment images for end users' desktops.
These tools include the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, System Center Configuration Manager and even the Windows Preinstallation Environment (WinPE). More information isn't circulating about the ease and convenience that these features bring to large-scale Windows 7 deployments because there are relatively few experts that have experience with the tools. OS image definition, maintenance and deployment are much simpler and more manageable than in previous versions of Windows, and this should help set Windows 7 on higher footing once these capabilities make their way into mainstream businesses.
It's refreshing to note that there are more good things about this Microsoft desktop OS and its support infrastructure than immediately meet the eye. You can advise your customers who are still on the Windows 7 adoption fence that they might want to lose their trepidation and at least jump into experimental or pilot deployments.
About the expert
Ed Tittel is a full-time freelance writer and consultant based in Round Rock, Texas, who specializes in Microsoft operating systems, markup languages and information security topics. Tittel contributed to the recent Que Publishing book Microsoft Windows 7 in Depth (2009, ISBN-13: 978-0789741998).
This was first published in May 2010