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Gartner Says Don't Skip Windows 7

IT vets sometimes pay Gartner thousands of dollars for its advice, and vendors pay multiples of this to work with Gartner (in hopes to get the huge research house on their side). I don't think this puts Gartner in the pockets of vendors necessarily, which, if the case, would be a good reason not to believe it. But I don't generally believe Gartner because it is so often wrong.

Ever since I've known Microsoft it has told IT not to skip operating systems, that skipping one level only makes moving to the next harder. Of course it doesn't hurt that Microsoft gets paid for each step along the way.

Gartner loves this Kool-Aid and just released a report suggesting that exact same thing, that XP shops should not go directly to Windows 8 but move to Windows 7 first. In all other upgrades I'd say this is poppycock. Two upgrades are both twice as hard and expensive.

But Windows 8 is different, very different. Here Gartner is arguing that Windows 8 is not ready to be a mainstream upgrade, and for the time being should serve IT as a niche operating system for "special projects."

Here's Gartner's rationale: There are two types of Microsoft OS upgrades. Some, like Windows 2000, are "plumbing releases" because the underlying technology is so different. The release that follows is generally a "polishing release." This turns the plumbing release into something IT actually trusts and wants to use. Windows 8 is both a plumbing and polishing release. Windows XP was a "polishing release."  Apparently so is Windows 7.

One reason Win 8 is polished is because its applications compatibility is generally good with Windows 7 (and Windows 7 is generally good with XP). But good is not perfect, and both OSes require some new apps or some fiddling to get old apps to work. If you go from XP to Win 7 to Win 8, you'll have to do this twice.

My view, for which I require no hefty consulting fee, is to look at Win 8 on its own. If you like and trust it, why bother with a Win 7 interim step? But because Win 8 is so different in user interface, give it a lot more testing and thought than you ordinarily might. Make this the basis of your decision rather than some Gartner theory.

Do you believe you have to upgrade OS by OS without skipping a generation? Answers readily accepted at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 10/03/2012 at 1:19 PM


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Reader Comments:

Thu, Oct 4, 2012 M

As usual anything Gartner says is rubbish! I have to tell vendors repeatedly that they lose all credibility whenever they quote them.

Thu, Oct 4, 2012 Craig

In general I think with Windows upgrades for the masses that you'll have a smoother experience by upgrading to each OS once it fits your business needs. The bigger question is why are we upgrading? What problems does it solve/create? Are there alternatives? How will applications work? Do they need to be upgraded? Does the upgrade require new hardware? How much user training is required? Etc.

Thu, Oct 4, 2012 Dan Iowa

Reality Check time: Look despite all of the "ready for primetime" judgements we like to toss around, a fair amount of the decision to migrate to a new OS is a balance between the decision maker's acceptance of change, and a mob of users demanding the latest and greatest stuff that they already have access to elsewhere. The good news is that there is still time before the mob decends. If the mob does not like Windows 8 you'll buy even more time. Those of us who embrace change aren't going to spend a lot of time waiting for the mob to beat down the door. We'll be starting the migration from Windows 7 to Windows 8 as soon as possible, and the only question is how long it will take us. Those of us who do not embrace change, well you've been on Windows XP this long, you might as well wait and see... If the mob of users breaks down your door, and Windows 8 is available, you might as well go Windows 8 and skip 7. Otherwise you'll have to embrace change twice; and you don't want that to happen!

Wed, Oct 3, 2012 Dan Canada

For as long as I can remember I've always looked at Gartner as one of the best examples that you don't have to be smart to be successful.

Wed, Oct 3, 2012 make Finland

If you organization is flexible enough, the amount of applications is small and new UI will bring you benefits, why not? Most of the migration steps and tools will be just the same and if you are starting from XP there is lots of work in any case. So whether your end goal is 7 or 8 makes a small difference in the whole cost of the project. And guess what - if you migrate to 7 do you think moving to 8 will be easy or cheap. No it will not - it will require all the application testing with Windows and web apps in any case and that is the part that will cost and take time.

Wed, Oct 3, 2012 Jim Australia

We at the Melbourne PC Users Group last night had a full scale demo of the (current pre - RTM) version of Win 8, and, as Win 8 can be run in Win 7 mode, much of the 'learning curve' can be side-stepped. However, ensuring all your XP software to run may be a different kettle of fish.

Wed, Oct 3, 2012 ibsteve2u Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

'course, you're probably all supposed to go to Windows 8 as part of a multi-stage process wherein Microsoft eventually transitions your data to their cloud. The questions, of course, are whether Microsoft or you would actually "control" your data...and whether you, they, or those who "manage" the comm links and server farms in low cost labor land - wherever that might be - would benefit from the fruits of your labor/R&D. I'm an evil little prognosticator, aren't I? lollll....

Wed, Oct 3, 2012 ibsteve2u Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

my view is...Windows 7 is a logical upgrade. Windows 8...that is a prime time decision point, as in reanalyze the cost structure of all things IT within your organization and decide whether Microsoft - and the cost of all things Microsoft - fits into your future. Does changing user interfaces just to justify recurring licensing costs make sense for you? When open source alternatives are readily available, and Windows 8 forces an end user training effort roughly equivalent to the transition to open source upon you anyway? Believe me when I say that I kind of hate to say that...a lot of history urges me to speak otherwise; I think I still have QuickC 1.0 laying around somewhere. On the other hand, Microsoft kind of turned their backs on U.S. programmers long ago, so Whoopee!!!

Wed, Oct 3, 2012

I found this an entertaining read. We are just completing our company wide XP to Win 7 Upgrade. I don't think skipping an OS creates an more expense, in fact it normally saves you expenses. XP to VIsta would have been more difficult not only on program support but user experience than XP to Win 7. The programs and drivers just were not there when Vista rolled out. XP to 7 IS skipping an OS. XP to 8 is skipping 2. Not only that 8 is a disaster that is going to make Vista look like a raging success. We have been working with it for a year. Sure programs run with some tinkering in 8, but why should I roll out on a corporate level an OS we have to tinker with to make work? Again - skipped Vista. 8 is NOT a polish release. It's a turn your world up side down one. I sometimes struggle with the interface yet. I have a desktop in front of me not a touch screen phone....

Wed, Oct 3, 2012 Steve Barnes USA

Pain builds on pain and after spending over 30 hours on the phone with Microsoft still attempting to resolve cross-domain wireless authentication issues after shifting IAS/RAS/NPS from 2003 to '08 R2 I'm inclined to agree. The move from XP to 7 was "relatively" painless, but painful just the same. If only the application vendors could keep up...

Wed, Oct 3, 2012 Andre Vermont

In this case, where the two OSes are very similar, I can see no structural reason to not skip Windows 7 and go straight to 8. However, I do agree that changes in Windows 8 make testing and evaluating essential. Apart from the interface change there seem to be some AD Domain networking related quirks in Windows 8 that weren't there in 7,and, I am not sure that program compatibility is exactly the same between the two either. Of course end user training must be considered given the significant change in the interface. Some wish to down play that part but experience has taught me that changes much smaller than this one are enough to create havoc.

Wed, Oct 3, 2012 Sonny Taragin United States

There appears to be some anti-Gartner bias clouding your objective review of Gartner's specific recommendation here and now regarding Windows 8. Some specific points not mentioned in your comments: * Gartner's advice is geared towards organizations already undertaking the migration to Windows 7. * The main points that point them to recommending to continue on the path (to Windows 7, rather than stopping and examining Windows 8) seem sound: 1. Windows 8 is unproven and has potential for implementation issues (partly because it has so much "plumbing" changes) and there is no field production experience yet in wide-scale deployment 2. There is not yet proven support by software vendors for versions running Windows 8. Going to Windows 8 without that support is a huge risk coupled with..... 3. XP has an expiration date so there is a need to make the change. Although I would agree with you that skipping a version is in itself not necessarily bad (say, skipping Office 2007 and going directly from 2003 to 2010), in this case, Gartner's recommendations have some pretty solid foundation in reality. that's my opinion...also at no cost....:)

Wed, Oct 3, 2012 Jeff

Let's not ignore that no one is suggesting going to Vista as an a step toward WIN 7 and that is good. I think WIN 8 "plumbing" changes might make it more like Vista (but let's hope it isn't that bad.)

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