Aron Smetana, CIO of California-based mortgage lender Paul Financial, sums up in one sentence Microsoft's challenge as it prepares Windows 7 for enterprise adoption.
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"Microsoft has lost a lot of trust and no one wants to take any chances on a buggy or difficult-to-adopt operating system."
Though there have been rave reviews about the performance of the Windows 7 RC (release candidate) and some organizations are eager to roll out the new OS, IT shops planning an early dance with Windows 7 are the exception, say industry analysts.
Most IT shops are cutting budgets, laying people off and being asked to take on more projects with fewer people. An OS upgrade is often not going to make the cut. In fact, this economic downturn is preventing many companies from even testing Windows 7.
Michael Cherry, analyst at Directions on Microsoft, has observed that most organizations acknowledge that Windows 7 has improved performance, resource requirements and application compatibility over Vista, but he still doesn't see anyone preparing for a wholesale deployment of Windows 7.
"It seems as if everyone is re-evaluating IT budgets; I see no indication of who might be early adopters," he says.
Thin Budgets and Complacency Kill Windows 7
Learning curve fears and budget constraints are two reasons why the Sovereign Bank branch in Dallas has no plans to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 anytime soon. Chris Rapp, Director of Technology at Sovereign, says that the typical duties of its users do not demand the latest and greatest operating system.
"As long as they have a working copy of MS Office and an Internet connection that enables functionality of our core banking system, they are happy."
Yet Rapp, whose staff provides IT for 100 users and 125 PCs, admits this happiness is also a form of complacency. He mentions that executives at Sovereign want to stay with Office 2003 because it is easier to use than Office 2007. Rapp counters that, "support for 2003 is going away soon, and the advanced features of 2007 are needed."
Add reduced budgets on top of this old-fashioned thinking, and an early Windows 7 upgrade doesn't stand much of a chance.
"Ultimately, it's a budget thing and our executives don't want to pay for things that are not necessary for operational existence," Rapp says. "Therefore, I see us moving to Windows 7 in a gradual fashion and not implementing until at least the first SP [service pack]."
Vista Bad Vibes Still Linger
Cost is not the main deterrent for Windows 7 for Paul Financial. CIO Smetana, whose staff serves 250 users, notes that the new look and feel of Windows 7 is actually a liability, and is causing a reluctance to adopt among his users and clients.
"While nearly everyone concedes that if they were coming into Windows for the first time, Vista or Windows 7 would be easier to learn than XP/2000. But since everyone has experience with the older variants, they don't see any great tangible benefit," Smetana says.
For example, his efforts to get users to migrate to Office 2007 have been a struggle. "Cost isn't an issue, it's that Excel and Access are so radically different in appearance and people are having a tough time transitioning."
Smetana blames the reluctance to move to Windows 7 more on negative perceptions of Vista than constrained budgets.
"It will take a lot of really good press on Windows 7 before there's much interest from my clients and users to migrate, and only if I'm able to demonstrate an easy upgrade from XP to 7 and show tangible features and performance increase. No degradation in performance is acceptable."
Smetana admits that he is attracted to features in Vista and Windows 7, but that his hands are tied on forcing an upgrade from the safe, reliable XP, which is the biggest thorn in Microsoft's side as it prepares to ship Windows 7 before the holidays.
"There are certainly some features in Vista and 7 that I'd like to adopt from an administrative perspective, but I don't dare force anyone's hand in migrating off of XP," he says.