Time is ripe for enterprises to move to Windows 7

Support for Windows XP Service Pack 2 ends next month. The news is significant for those that stuck with that system, but what does it mean for organisations' desktop strategies overall? Companies should be moving to Windows 7, according to a report just released by Gartner.
The report, Creating a Timeline for Deploying Windows 7 and Eliminating Windows XP recommends that most organisations try to eliminate Windows XP by the end of 2012. They should be planning and testing the Windows 7 operating system this year, and should set a target date to eliminate Windows XP, it said, while also deciding whether to retain it on some systems.
When Microsoft released XP SP2, it was essentially a complete revision of the XP operating system, conducted to solve some security issues. Consequently, many companies may have stuck with that landmark version. However, there is also an XP Service Pack 3, and Microsoft plans on continuing extended support for that through until April 2014. However, Gartner says that many new versions of applications are likely to exclude support for XP much sooner than that.
Discontinuing support for XP is likely to be a much bigger deal than discontinuing support for Vista, because XP was far more popular among enterprise users, according to Gartner vice president Michael Silver. 80% of respondents to Gartner's surveys have reported skipping Windows Vista. This also makes Windows 7 a far more pivotal operating system for enterprise users, who are probably unwilling to want to skip two major generations of software.
What strategies exist for replacing operating systems? Gartner suggests two approaches: either a 'forklift' approach, in which everything is replaced at once, or over time, through attrition, as various PCs are replaced throughout the organisation. That may of course require more management, as organisations will have to cope with the complexity of multiple operating systems, and presumably multiple application versions to support them all. Silver also warns that attrition alone will not be sufficient to migrate all PCs quickly enough, especially in larger companies. Most organizations need 12 to 18 months for planning, testing and piloting alone, Gartner says.
The signs are that users are embracing Windows 7 at least as much as Gartner would hope. Web analytics company Net Applications found in March that Windows 7 had garnered 10% market share in the five months since it was released. And Microsoft hopes to sell 300 million copies this year.
In the race to embrace 64-bit computing, then, customers are pulling out all the stops - and according to analysts, they are right to do so. 
Stewart Baines
Stewart Baines

I've been writing about technology for nearly 20 years, including editing industry magazines Connect and Communications International. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Anthony Plewes. My focus in Futurity Media is in emerging technologies, social media and future gazing. As a graduate of philosophy & science, I have studied futurology & foresight to the post-grad level.