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Windows 7 deployment momentum uneven

Windows 7 adoption rates vary according to customer segment, VARs say, and Windows 8 sneak peeks muddy the waters.

Twenty months after the release of Windows 7, enterprise and SMB customers apparently feel the need to migrate quite differently.

Generally, larger companies are moving faster than small and medium businesses (SMBs), according to a half dozen or so VARs contacted for this story.

Windows 7 became widely available on Oct. 22, 2009. In April, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that 350 million Windows 7 licenses sold during its first 18 months, but VARs tell a more nuanced story. For one thing, Microsoft numbers typically count licenses bundled on new PCs that may or may not have shipped and thus include a significant “shelf ware” factor.

Windows 8 demos muddy the waters

Nearly everyone agrees that the quality and stability of Windows 7 make eventual migration a no-brainer. The newer release has done much to erase the unpleasant aftertaste of the Windows Vista misadventure. And yet, Windows 7 is not setting any deployment speed records. To complicate matters, Microsoft early this month started talking up Windows 8 and some shops — which are fine running Windows XP — wonder what the upside of a Windows 7 migration really is with yet a new release allegedly on the horizon.

And that could be a big problem for Microsoft, said IDC analyst Al Gillen. “I think they’ll keep beating the drum for Windows 7 at WPC because there is so much interest in Windows 8. They cannot afford to have business customers wait for that.”

To further muddy the waters, VARs cited several instances where enterprise clients that brought in new PCs with Windows 7 pre-loaded, rolled them back to Windows XP. “They don’t want to support two desktop OSes,” said an executive with a large Mid-Atlantic reseller. He expects that behavior to ebb this fall as more businesses update more of their hardware and assume Windows 7 as the standard.

His company, with just fewer than 800 people, will probably do its own migration in August.

Larry Piland, president of Datel Systems, hasn’t seen much wholesale Windows 7 adoption in either education or local government or small-and medium businesses (SMB) accounts but enterprise customers have been much more active. Piland would be surprised if more than 25% of his customers were on Windows 7 because so many are happy with XP and don’t want to “mess with a good thing.”

“Enterprise customers are more apt to migrate because they have the money to do so; there would be some new initiative or they want to improve user satisfaction,” Piland said. “But there’s just no sense of urgency with SMBs – it’s a budget play.”

Unisys Corp. recently reported that 25% of its customers were pondering Windows 7 migrations and 21% were already in process with such migrations. Those findings have been carefully parsed.

Microsoft-centric VARs report heavier Windows 7 adoption
Others report more Windows 7 action. Carl Mazzanti, CEO of eMazzanti Technologies, has seen a massive adoption of 64-bit Windows 7 systems over the past year. He estimates that more than 85% of his customers have made that 64-bit move.

“There are very few left to convert from XP – there was an early refresh among smaller companies that needed us to come in and help them. Any customers left [with XP] are big fish that have 100-1,000 desktops with in-house IT,” Mazzanti said. “It’s not a priority for them because users aren’t complaining and their applications will be Windows 7 compatible.”

Linda Rose, CEO of Rose Business Solutions, a San Diego-based VAR specializing in CRM and ERP, said her company moved to Windows 7 some time ago and has been its pushing customers to do the same, not necessarily for new Windows 7 bells and whistles, but for added stability and Windows 7’s ability to address more memory.

A big New England-based VAR said StatCounter estimates early this month showing Windows 7 with 33% market share jibed with what he sees in the field. Raw numbers aside, what VARs look for are the service opportunities a desktop OS migration brings, even if the new software comes in as part of the regular hardware refresh cycle. Despite all the claims of application compatibility, for example, that all has to be tested out, VARs noted.

“A lot of migrations are beginning to coincide with VDI deployments, so with VDI emerging as a technology a lot of customers need to license their desktops with Windows 7,” they said. They are either upgrading older machines or purchasing Software Assurance on new desktop purchases.”

Let us know what you think about the story; email Barbara Darrow, Senior News Director, or Pat Ouellette, Associate Editor, or follow us on Twitter.

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