IT managers fret over skipping Vista for Windows 7

IT shops running Windows XP are worried about whether to wait for the next OS release, dubbed Windows 7. A Gartner desktop expert says the fuss is premature.

Microsoft executives told sales staff recently that the next client version of the Windows operating system after Windows Vista, dubbed "Windows 7," is three years away. Michael Silver, a consultant at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn., said his phone started to ring when IT managers heard the news.

Those with shops running Windows XP, as well as older versions of Windows, were worried. Should they just skip Windows Vista and wait for Windows 7? In an interview with Margie Semilof at SearchWinIT.com, Silver reacts to the news about Windows 7.

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SearchWinIT.com: Microsoft really offered scant information about the next release of Windows, other than that it is three years out. How meaningful is this information to an IT shop?

Michael Silver: No matter what Microsoft does, it ends up in trouble. If it says something [about a future version of Windows], it gets in trouble because people start thinking about skipping Vista. If it doesn't say anything, people say they can't plan.

[New versions of Windows] are something you have to plan for at some point. But realize that Microsoft didn't say what it is. Maybe they don't know. Maybe they don't want to commit to anything this early. Both are valid. It's not something that you need to think about here and now. For large companies, bringing in new machines with Vista is what's important.

What's the danger of waiting?

Silver: There will always be another version around the corner. Realize that a version that ships in three years -- well, most organizations will still have to wait another 12 to 18 months. They will still have to test. If it ships in 2009, they still can't bring it in until 2011. Hanging onto XP until 2011 gets kind of dangerous. What if [Windows 7] is late?

Will there be a chance IT managers won't have to upgrade everything anyway? Won't it be more possible for IT shops to move some of their users to services?

Silver: The issue will remain the legacy applications, even by 2011, if half of their applications require Windows and half are Web-based, or thin or rich or OS agnostic. You will still need Windows for a lot of your applications for some time to come. The value of the OS will change over time as these phenomena entrench themselves in the organization.

How many of your clients are beginning their migrations to Windows Vista?

Silver: Not a lot. Mainstream migrations begin in the fourth quarter of this year, and by the middle of next year they will begin in earnest. Today there are organizations that are testing and running pilots. First are people in the TAP program or people who have skipped XP.

If you can believe what you read, it seems that customers will cling to XP for as long as they can.

Silver: It is the consumer who wants the latest and greatest. In some corporations, they are still bringing in Windows 2000 for some machines. They will continue to bring in XP for five years or more. They can do it with the downgrade rights you get with Vista Business and Vista Ultimate. I don't think enterprises are going through anything different than they did years ago. There are more venues on the Internet where people vent their frustrations and opinions. But XP is a pretty good OS. That was not the case with Windows ME or Windows 98.

Also, times and expectations have changed. On one hand, you have [Google Inc.] Gmail, which was stable in its betas and redefined what people expect in a beta. Microsoft comes out with a new operating system, and when it's not as stable and compatible as what they are now used to, it causes a ripple.

What percent of IT shops are still on Windows 2000?

Silver: Windows 2000 is about 20% of the desktop market and a little less of the notebook market. There is still a lot out there, but most organizations have a mix. Some organizations try to have a single standard in the organization. Some have skipped XP. Take pharmaceutical companies. With their federal regulations of application validation, it's too expensive to support a mix of two OSes.

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