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Report: IT Should Plan for Windows 7 Now

Microsoft will hatch Windows 7 as a full-fledged commercial operating system this week, and IT professionals should be making plans for it.

That's the main message from Forrester Research, which published its "Windows 7 Commercial Adoption Outlook" report last week -- just in time for the Oct. 22 Windows 7 launch. The report provides lots of tips on how to think about moving to Windows 7.

Many IT organizations resisted upgrading to Windows Vista, Microsoft's current flagship OS. Vista required upgraded hardware; it lacked a lot of driver support when it was first released. Instead, organizations continued to run Windows XP.

XP's staying power among organizations is almost legendary. Today, about 79 percent of PCs in small-to-medium businesses are running XP, according to Forrester's report, which polled 655 PC decision-makers in North America and Europe. With such resistance, why should IT organizations consider switching to Windows 7?

Forrester's report gives some answers, noting that the clock is ticking on XP, which has been available for about eight years. One sign of XP's age is that the Service Pack 3 version of the OS will enter its "extended support" phase on July 7, 2010. After a few more years, extended support will end -- on April 8, 2014. At that point, no security patches will be issued by Microsoft for XP. No patching teams will plug the holes when new bugs are found, except maybe through Microsoft's paid "custom support."

Another factor to consider for IT pros is that downgrade rights from Windows 7 to XP will eventually end. Downgrade rights will end 18 months after Windows 7 gets released, or when the first service pack appears -- whichever comes first. After that time, to get new PCs running XP, IT pros will have to purchase "volume license copies of Windows" with those new PCs, according to the report.

IT pros will need some time to test Windows 7 for application compatibility. Forrester's report suggests that about 12 months to 18 months will be needed. Such testing involves "image development," as well as "application packaging and testing," according to the report.

The bottom line, according to the study, is that "firms should plan to completely migrate away [from XP] by the end of 2012 due to application incompatibility concerns."

In its many reports on Windows 7 migration, Forrester has typically recommended that IT organizations upgrade to Vista from XP before moving to Windows 7. However, IT pros tend to disagree. In a poll of 596 PC decision-makers, just seven percent said they planned to upgrade from XP to Vista. Most (61 percent) planned to move directly to Windows 7 from XP, skipping Vista altogether.

Forrester's report recommends a gradual move toward Windows 7, based on hardware considerations. PCs with more than 2 GB of memory represent candidates for a Windows 7 upgrade, the report says. IT pros should consider making Windows 7 upgrades coincident with the PC refresh cycle, the report adds.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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