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Microsoft customers balk at 'forklift upgrade'

Just because Microsoft comes out with a new version of Windows, that doesn't mean everyone is eager to buy new machines so that they can enjoy all of the operating system's features.

special-reportEditor's note: IT analysts at Partners Healthcare System Inc. shared their insights with on a recent internal study about how and when it will migrate from Windows 2000. Watch for coverage when Partners makes its final decision.

Microsoft expects IT shops to upgrade their PCs so they are current with the latest release of Windows. When a new version of the operating system comes out, it encourages customers to do a "forklift upgrade" -- an upgrade that requires a massive technology investment.

Partners Healthcare System Inc.,

It's great that [Microsoft plans] another version of XP so it can say it came out with another release, but what does it buy me?

Jim Marra, analyst

Partners Healthcare,
however, didn't share that sense of urgency when Windows XP was released, and the health care provider still had new Windows 2000 desktops.

"We just didn't need to be that aggressive," said James Marra, a senior research analyst for Boston-based Partners. "There is a huge cost associated with putting bodies out there to do those upgrades. And it's not clear whether or not those machines will be able to support Longhorn."

But Marra and William Henderson, a fellow senior research analyst, do agree that Partners will probably have to do more than stay put on Windows 2000 until the Longhorn version of Windows is released. And the agents of change come from within the organization. There are some researchers at Partners, for instance, who tend to push for the latest software available.

License agreements part of the equation

An internal operating system study that was recently completed at Partners has also sparked a parallel discussion with

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Microsoft on the subject of licensing. Microsoft is now talking about a version of XP called XP Reloaded, which may contractually qualify as a "release" before Longhorn makes its debut. Under enterprise agreements with Microsoft, customers are promised a free upgrade during the term of their license.

"It's great that [Microsoft plans] another version of XP so it can say it came out with another release, but what does it buy me?" Marra asked.

As product time frames get pushed out, some speculate that it wouldn't be a surprise if Microsoft ends up extending its support for XP. "You can't end support until there is a replacement," Marra said. "And when they talk about XP Reloaded, it sounds like a combination of a service pack and new Media Player. You're going to charge me for that?"

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