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Customers weigh the value of Windows 7 end-of-life upgrades

The Windows 7 end-of-life date may not compel every customer to migrate operating systems --however, for those who do decide to migrate, the transition should run more smoothly than the XP migration.

Although mainstream support for Windows 7 will end in January, solution providers are finding that no one is really clamoring for OS upgrades right now for a variety of reasons. The first and foremost reason, they say, is that many organizations are still reeling from the challenges that were involved in upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7.

Another compelling reason not to migrate is that extended support will remain available into 2020. "For most of our enterprise customers, that will definitely be sufficient,'' said Brad Gephart, senior director of the infrastructure group, at Avanade Inc. "Windows 7 end of life is not on their radar right now."

"When I meet with customers and start to have this conversation [about Windows 7 end of life], there is a bit of disbelief,'' said Troy Massey, director of enterprise engagements, at Iron Bow Technologies. "Since they are currently implementing Windows 7, they haven't even starting thinking about the next migration, and they often tell me that they have to look into it and double-check the facts. It's still a surprise out there."

Remaining on Windows 7

Among the reasons to stay on Windows 7 is that it has been a stable operating system, noted Dov Rosenberg, senior director of the application development practice for North America, at Ciber Inc. "Microsoft has made it easier to transition from Windows 7 to Windows 8 and to 10 next with less compatibility issues than in past. It's a less troublesome environment than back in 2003," he added, when so many organizations were still running Windows XP. Rosenberg believes there are still a lot of companies running XP and "a significant number" that will simply wait and bypass Windows 7 and migrate right to Windows 8.

Cost, of course, is also an issue.

[The Windows 7 end-of-life] conversation is bigger than the next upgrade. It is getting customers to understand their budgetary paths and the impact of end of sales and support.
Troy Masseydirector of enterprise engagements, at Iron Bow Technologies

"In all honesty, this conversation is bigger than the next upgrade. It is getting customers to understand their budgetary paths and the impact of end of sales and support," Massey said. "It opens the door to a bigger discussion about managing IT infrastructure and looking to the cloud as a way to avoid the headaches of constant upgrades. With every new OS, there are hardware upgrades that are required, which means more budget allocations to upgrade the systems."

Andrew Hertenstein, senior Microsoft architect at En Pointe Technologies, also said he hasn't had conversations yet about Windows 7 end of life with customers -- the majority of whom are on the operating system. But when the time comes, unlike the migration off of XP, which had "customers freaking out," he too believes many will find it easier to bring in Windows 8 or Windows 10.

"A lot of reasons why organizations [stayed] with Windows XP was because apps were not supported for Windows 7." If they did upgrade to Windows 7, Hertenstein estimates that at least 90% of applications will be Windows 8 compatible, making the transition a lot smoother. "We will have to do the typical testing, but Windows 8 does pretty well with apps written for Windows 7,'' he said.

Gephart believes the transition from Windows 7 to 8.1 or 10 will be a lot easier than it was from XP because of the tremendous amount of work they did helping customers understand their app inventory and improve how they distribute software. "We helped with that heavy lifting at a point in time when they were going through XP end of life, and hopefully that's set them up for future updates."

Benefits of migrating

Whenever a company looks at doing an OS upgrade, it's also a very good time to reevaluate all of its devices, Hertenstein said. Whereas traditionally, companies supported desktops and laptops, now it's laptops, desktops and mobile devices, since many have adopted BYOD and have employees using tablets and phablets for work.

Since touch devices are becoming hugely popular, Hertenstein said customers will be eyeing Windows 8 or higher, because the newer operating systems are becoming more touch-friendly. "The interface is much better for touch enablement and the way native apps can work, so whenever we're talking about rolling out those devices, organizations are looking at Windows 8.1."

Gephart concurred that touch-friendly devices are a huge focus right now. "Windows 8.1 in particular addressed business shortcomings inherent with Windows 8,'' he said. Windows 8.1 was Microsoft's first foray into the touch world. "By no means does 8.1 fix everything, and that's why you're seeing a lot of excitement around Windows 10," he added, because of the ability to run apps across tablets, phones, desktops and laptops with better mobile device management capabilities.

"So when we're having these conversations, it becomes [about] whether there is a certain feature with 8.1 or the next operating system that you need,'' he said. "Windows 7 is stable and will be supported for many years to come,'' so the issue becomes whether there is a business need to propel companies to go through another migration.

"Most will be happy enough with extended support and will look for specific use cases -- things you couldn't have done with Windows 7,'' Gephart said. "So, we'll look at user segmentation and understand that the back-office user is much different than mobile user or contact center user." At that point, companies will recognize there are newer features and functions they don't have today and that there is an opportunity to modernize and take advantage of them.

"They will opportunistically look to update and upgrade certain segments," he concluded, "but outside of that, many of them will be content with Windows 7 for large pockets of their organization for many years to come."

Next Steps

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How interested are your customers in upgrading their Windows 7 systems?
Touch in our business NO
Windows 8 in our business NO
Office 365 in our business NO

We will stay with WIN7 and Office 2010 untill it becomes un-viable to continue with them.

Windows 10 if MS give us the option for the WIN7 Classic UI as it is in WIN7, and Office well if we cannot get a MS win 2010 style UI the we will go Office Libra.
We Will NOT tolerate any Tile or METRO on our business/office systems.
@Sentar, what's the rationale against Touch, Windows 8 and Office 365? Are you concerned about productivity issues? Don't see value in a cloud-based office suite?
the thought of Windows 7 being end of lifed makes me a bit sad, since it's a really nice operating point and operates cleanly for most of what I and my organization actually do (Windows 8 just hasn't gotten much traction in my org for those who use Windows machines).
Thank God for Ubuntu Linux. Better than Windows and its free.