Readers Invest in Familiar Microsoft Apps in 2010

Redmond magazine's latest survey shows users upgrading long-standing Microsoft offerings, but not experimenting with newer technologies.

2009 was a year most of us would like to forget. A deep recession and massive job losses crushed the economy as a whole, and ravaged the technology sector particularly hard. Fortunately, 2010 has started well and may be the year in which the economy finally turns around. Even if the economy picks up, however, the technology industry has some serious catching up to do. In October, Gartner Inc. predicted that IT spending would increase in 2010 after a sharp decline of more than 5 percent in 2009 -- but that spending wouldn't reach 2008 levels again until 2012. That's a four-year climb back and a sign that IT budgets, no matter how high stocks go or how low unemployment falls this year, might stay flat for a while.

In late 2009, Redmond surveyed more than 1,000 readers on a wide variety of topics, including spending and migration plans. The survey revealed that companies aren't rushing to take chances with technology budgets. They're investing in trusted Microsoft products and shying away from less-mature offerings.

Where's the Money Going?
The response to one survey question is especially revealing. In answering the question, "How do you anticipate your company's 2010 budget for all Windows-related hardware, software and services will compare to 2009?" readers strongly suggested it won't change much at all.

Almost 30 percent of readers said their budget will not change, period. More distressingly, 28 percent said budgets will decrease in 2010 compared to last year. Just shy of 27 percent of respondents predicted a budget increase.

So, spending is flat or decreasing, but where is the money going? Which Microsoft technologies are priorities for IT departments? Windows 7 is one. Though almost 30 percent of readers said they have "no plans" to roll out Windows 7, 26 percent will start rolling out the new OS in the first half of 2010.

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Another 14 percent report the rollout will begin in the second half of this year. At about 38 percent, the number of respondents planning to move to Windows 7 in 2010 trumps those with no plans to move at all -- and a further 7.5 percent signaled 2011 as the year for a Windows 7 deployment.

Windows 7 has already made its debut in many shops: almost 33 percent are running at least one instance. That compares to 52 percent for Windows Vista and, not surprisingly, nearly 98 percent for Windows XP. A surprising 31 percent of readers still have

Windows 2000 Professional lurking somewhere in their organizations. To Microsoft's likely dismay, nearly 29 percent of respondents report running at least one Mac in the organization.

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Another popular Microsoft technology is Windows Server 2008. More than half of readers report they've either started a rollout or will begin deployment in 2010. Only 22 percent have no plans to implement Windows Server 2008.

The survey showed that old standby Microsoft offerings are doing well. Exchange 2007 is already in place in many respondents' organizations, and it should be rolled or rolling out by the end of this year in more than half of the shops represented in the survey.

There's less certainty about SQL Server 2008. Nearly a quarter of respondents have no plans to move to it, but a greater number will have upgraded by the end of this year. Still, the winner in the SQL-upgrade category is actually "Don't know," which suggests either that readers don't have responsibility for making SQL Server decisions or that there's some hesitation about moving forward with the 2008 version of the server -- or both.

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Readers are interested in the latest versions of Windows, Exchange, Windows Server and -- maybe -- SQL Server. But what about up-and-coming products like SharePoint, or emerging technology categories such as unified communications (UC)? Those products and categories didn't do quite so well in our survey. It's likely that budget pressure is holding back growth in those areas.

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Microsoft and other vendors might be pushing UC, but our readers aren't buying it -- at least not right now. Almost two-thirds have no plans to deploy UC or don't know when their organization will deploy it. A further 12.7 percent are "just starting to explore" UC, meaning only about 20 percent have either deployed UC or have concrete plans to deploy it.

More of the Same
While 2010 may bring economic and industry recovery, our survey indicates that it's not likely to bring bigger budgets or more spending freedom. Windows 7 is the only brand-new release that's getting serious attention -- Exchange 2007 and SQL 2008 are hardly new technologies. And Windows 7 is likely getting a look mainly because of Vista's failure and XP's age. For 2010, the theme for Microsoft technology spending seems to be the same as it was in 2009 -- evolution, not revolution.

About the Author

Lee Pender is the executive features editor of Redmond magazine. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.


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