Windows Insider

Why Your Business Fears the Windows 7 Upgrade

It's more than the legitimate concerns about cost, compatibility and execution -- it comes down to the role of the operating system itself.

Windows 7 is available, full of features, more secure than Windows has ever been and specifically designed for the complex needs of a mobile workforce. It's also about to get its first service pack.

Yet, with all its newfangled capabilities and greatly strengthened security posture, why, according to some reports, have so few businesses worldwide completed their upgrades?

It can't be for lack of capabilities.Your IT teams have more than likely upgraded their computers already, even if it goes against your corporate policies.

So, if the Windows 7 end state isn't its limiting factor, could the "getting there" be the real reason behind your reticence? Signs point to ... yes.

Dollars and cents probably represent your first fear in the Windows 7 upgrade. With Gartner Inc. reporting that a Windows XP to Windows 7 migration could cost as much as $1,930 per seat (click here), those dollars might not make a lot of sense at first blush.

Application incompatibility could represent another fear. Many applications coded for Windows XP simply won't function atop the Windows 7 enhanced security architecture. And no marketing pressure from an OS vendor can sway the realization that some of your applications simply won't ever be fixed.

A third fear also surfaces as a vague yet nagging concern that IT teams can actually succeed in a project of such gargantuan proportions. Most business executives still remember the last round of OS upgrades and accompanying work stoppage when IT couldn't execute seamlessly on their upgrade plans.

While all of these fears are critical factors in making the financial decision to upgrade, none of them directly attacks what I'll suggest is at the center of the debate. That is: Does anyone really care about the OS anymore? Signs here point to ... no.

The days of the OS as a titillating component of IT infrastructure are arguably behind us. Today's OS is seen as more of a container for apps and data -- for business processes, if you will -- than an exciting component all to itself. For the non-technical, the Windows XP container probably works just as fine as the touted Windows 7 container. So, the fear in the upgrade might lie more in the "why bother" than the "why not bother."

Yet, that refocusing of the OS away from thing-you-care-about to container-for-things-you-care-about represents one of the primary strengths of Windows 7. You see, Windows 7 represents the Microsoft assertion that there's a better way for IT to drive business needs. That new way is in enabling business to accomplish its tasks no matter where those tasks must occur. It provides mechanisms to secure the transactions of business, but without all those nasty limitations on what users can and can't do. It also creates a platform that frees applications from their direct ties to the OS and the individual piece of hardware.

IT is finally right-sizing the delivery mechanism to the needs of the application. Getting there starts with Windows 7 as that core container.

Indeed, some applications might not work, but those you'll deliver through other, more-specialized mechanisms. Our industry solved those problems long ago. Your IT teams might not complete the upgrade task without an outage or two, but user state virtualization technologies mean never losing user data in the process.

The cost to migrate might be a touch higher than you wish, but amortizing those costs into the much-larger transition toward ubiquitous, secure computing converts a low-return OS upgrade into a high-return business process enabler.

Microsoft says that, today, 60 percent of all companies are in a pilot or deploy phase with Windows 7 worldwide. Only 11 percent of those companies have completed their projects. If fear of an upgrade puts you in neither of these percentages, consider how not right-sizing your application delivery might be more a risky future than any upgrade ever could be.

About the Author

Greg Shields is a senior partner and principal technologist with Concentrated Technology. He also serves as a contributing editor and columnist for TechNet Magazine and Redmond magazine, and is a highly sought-after and top-ranked speaker for live and recorded events. Greg can be found at numerous IT conferences such as TechEd, MMS and VMworld, among others, and has served as conference chair for 1105 Media’s TechMentor Conference since 2005. Greg has been a multiple recipient of both the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional and VMware vExpert award.

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