The move to Microsoft’s latest operating system (OS), Windows 7, is all but inevitable for most organisations, and Gartner, Inc. has highlighted five key issues organisations should examine as this new OS hits the market.

On 22 October, Microsoft will officially launch Windows 7. While Windows 7 is a significant improvement from Vista, analysts point out that Windows 7 is not a major architectural release; it builds on the plumbing changes Microsoft made in Windows Vista, but it has important features that Vista did not have, which will help improve organisations’ abilities to deploy it.
“Windows 7 has improvements in memory management to allow users to have a better experience than with Vista on PCs with similar or even slightly lower specifications,” says Michael Silver, vice-president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “It adds other features of interest to organisations, as well as to consumers. It is important for Microsoft to get off to a good start with Windows 7 to build momentum and put the problems of Vista behind it.”
Gartner analysts said that while it’s nearly inevitable for organisations to move to Windows 7, this does not mean that the PC industry will see a significant boost in PC sales immediately.
“The Windows 7 release will generate renewed interest in hardware upgrades in consumers and small businesses following its release, but corporate demand is not expected to gain momentum until the end of 2010,” says Charles Smulders, managing vice-president at Gartner. “An overdue PC hardware upgrade cycle, and the economic environment, will be as equally important as Windows 7 in determining final demand in 2010.”
Five issues that organisations should examine before they move to Windows 7 include:
* Plan to be off Windows XP by year-end 2012 – Microsoft will support Windows XP with security fixes into April of 2014, but past experience has shown that independent software vendors (ISVs) will stop testing much earlier. “New releases of critical business software will require Windows 7 long before Microsoft support for Windows XP ends,” says Steve Kleynhans, research vice-president at Gartner. “Organisations that get all of their users off Windows XP by the end of 2012 will avoid significant potential problems."
* Start working on migration projects now – The typical organisation requires 12 to 18 months waiting, testing, and planning before it can start deploying a new client OS. There is a lot of work to be done in preparation, and delays in getting started will only result in added costs later.
* Don’t wait for Windows 7 SP1 to begin testing and deployment – Many organisations say they plan to wait until SP1 ships to begin testing and deploying a new client OS. Gartner analysts suggest starting work now (especially if companies have skipped Windows Vista), but are planning to switch to SP1 before their actual rollout.
* Don’t skip Windows 7 – Gartner categorises Windows 7 as a “polishing” release on top of the architectural change that the Windows Vista “plumbing” release delivered. Gartner analysts said polishing releases should never be skipped. “While organisations that skipped Windows 2000 and waited for XP had some problems spanning the gap, organisations that adopted Windows 2000 and tried to skip Windows XP, waiting for Vista, had a much harder time,” Silver says.
* Budget carefully — migration costs vary significantly Gartner’s model shows that migration costs could be $1 035.00 to $1 930.00 per user to move from Windows XP to Windows 7, and $339.00 to $510.00 per user to move from Windows Vista to Windows 7 depending on an organisation’s approach.