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Microsoft: Now Is the Time To Deploy Windows 7

Momentum is one of those intangibles that can end up being massively important. In business, in sports, in daily life in general, people who can create or capitalize on momentum can accomplish a lot. It's hard to say -- in a non-scientific way, since we do know that there are actual scientific formulas for momentum -- what the feeling of momentum really is or how it develops and flows, but we know it's there.

Sports fans know all about momentum -- especially football fans, who were able to breathe again last weekend with both college ball and the NFL in full swing. (As well as high school football. Here's a completely indulgent shout-out to the Midlothian High School Panthers from Midlothian, Texas. Proud to be a Panther...go blue!)

Ahem, anyway, football fans know about momentum because they can feel it. They know the sick feeling in the pit of the stomach that they get when their team loses it and the rush of exhilaration they feel when their squad gains it. It exists, momentum. And momentum matters. Take Saturday's Fresno State-Wisconsin game in Wisconsin, a game your editor happened to catch.

With about six minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Fresno, leading by 4 on the road, was driving -- fairly comfortably -- into Badger territory. On third and four (if memory serves) from just inside the Wisconsin 30, the Bulldogs, instead of just going for a first down they would likely have made, went for a home-run ball into the end zone to seal the game. The pass floated just out of the receiver's reach and fell incomplete.

Then -- and this was the key moment, when stomachs started turning in the San Joaquin Valley and tingles shot up spines in Madison -- Fresno missed a field goal. So, instead of having a 7-point lead (that could have been 11) with not quite six minutes left to play, Fresno gave Wisconsin the ball back and let the Badgers off the hook. Next play: John Clay, 72-yard run...touchdown, Wisconsin. 24-21, Badgers. Momentum shift complete. Game over.

Oh, Fresno did come back to tie the game (and rather dramatically, at that), but Wisconsin won it in overtime. And really, once Clay lumbered down the right sideline, only the most one-eyed of Bulldog optimists could have seen Fresno regaining control of a game that the 'Dogs had mostly dominated. Wisconsin had the momentum from that moment forward and wouldn't be denied a victory. (By the way, we're not Fresno or Wisconsin fans here; we just like college football.)

The main purpose of that longer-than-necessary story was really to entertain you (sorry if you're not a football fan), but the story also served (hopefully) to illustrate how important keeping a good thing going is. And that -- here comes the transition -- is what Microsoft is trying too hard to do with Windows 7. After the Vista mess, Microsoft has managed to garner near-universal acclaim for its forthcoming operating system, and the folks in Redmond don't want to lose the momentum they've built. But they're pushing things just a bit.

In fact, they're suggesting that enterprise customers move to Windows 7 now. Yes, now. As in today, more than a month before Windows 7 hits retail shelves. Redmond moved up the launch date for its Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, which is a set of applications aimed at companies looking to deploy Windows 7 and will include an App-V service pack, from some time early next year to the end of October.

And check out these quotes from Mary Jo Foley's blog -- breathlessly spoken, we can imagine (or written, actually) -- by Microsoft Senior Director Gavriella Schuster:

"Windows 7 is ready to deploy now. Enterprise customers don't have to wait...We are trying to get the word out that Windows 7 is stable and the RC (Release Candidate test build) was really our gold image."

Schuster did acknowledge that lots of customers will wait for at least Service Pack 1 before looking at Windows 7. (Others, apparently, will wait 20 hours just to deploy it on one machine, although most won't have to wait anywhere near that long.)

The bottom line here is that Microsoft wants to get Windows 7 into the enterprise while people are still excited about it. And that'll be good for partners...if it happens. Our guess, though, is that it won't, for lots of reasons. First of all, there's the (generally wise) policy of waiting until at least SP1 to deploy a new Microsoft OS. Then there's (everybody now) the economy, which, for many companies, has led to smaller IT budgets and fewer big projects.

And then there's XP, the eternal operating system and Windows 7's biggest nemesis. Will the new OS have what it takes to unseat the champ? Or, going back to our previous metaphor, will Windows 7 be able to storm 72 yards down the sideline and take the momentum away from XP? We think it will -- just not right now. Adoption of Windows 7 is going to be a marathon, not a (72-yard) sprint.

So, maybe Microsoft and its partners should be focused at this point on talking to customers about when a Windows 7 upgrade might be appropriate and how to get it done, rather than trying to force a release candidate down everybody's throat. And hopefully nobody in Redmond or elsewhere is counting on Windows 7 for an immediate revenue boost. It should produce a return -- just maybe not by Oct. 23, the day after it officially comes out. Or even by Oct. 23, 2010. We'll see.  

Momentum really is a funny thing, hard to catch and easy to lose. And while we admire Microsoft's boundless enthusiasm about an OS that seems to have the stuff to back its marketing, we're thinking that Redmond could tone down the do-it-now message on Windows 7 just a little bit -- or maybe considerably. Let the momentum build slowly for a while (and let XP start to look really old), Microsoft, and then go with it for 72 yards, or however far you have to go to make Windows 7 the next XP.

When do you plan on deploying Windows 7? What are you telling your customers about the new OS? What's your take on Microsoft's suggestion that companies deploy Windows 7 now? Did you catch any good games last weekend? Sound off at lpender@rcpmag.com.   

Posted by Lee Pender on 09/15/2009 at 1:22 PM


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