Windows 7 and Your Next OS Upgrade

Skipping Vista? Some reasons to rethink that decision.

This story was updated to include additional reporting. To read the original story, click here.

As organizations weigh what to do with Windows XP upgrades, the thought of leapfrogging the much-maligned Vista often comes to mind. But be warned, says a recent report from Gartner: Migrating directly from XP to the next release, Windows 7, could be a dicey proposition.

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The report by analyst Michael Silver states that most organizations should not skip Vista entirely and should install Vista on new PCs as they are deployed. The main reason: Independent software vendors (ISVs) don't support old versions of Windows long enough or new versions of Windows soon enough. Also, Silver suggests, Windows 7 is not likely not to arrive on time.

"The next version of Windows may be delivered later than Microsoft says and be just as unsuitable for immediate deployment," as earlier versions, writes Silver. Organizations that skipped Windows 98, Windows 2000 and Windows XP often had ISV support issues, as well as difficult and rushed migrations. Those who skip Vista "are likely to have the same problems," he added in an interview.

The only companies that may be able to skip Vista entirely are those doing forklift migrations—updating hardware and OS all at once—and those that don't plan on deploying Windows 7 until mid-2011, Silver says. This would be 18 months after Microsoft's stated Windows 7 ship date, the estimated time that Windows 7 will be mature and stable enough to deploy, in Gartner's view.

Delay may also cost you. Businesses without Software Assurance (Microsoft's maintenance and support service) must budget to buy software license upgrades. Gartner predicts that Windows 7 will include downgrade rights to Windows Vista only. If this is the case, Windows XP PCs purchased in 2010, 2011 and 2012 will be bought with Windows Vista licenses so that XP can run until a Windows 7 deployment. As a result, organizations won't have Windows 7 licenses when it is time to deploy and will have to buy upgrades.

Despite the potential drawbacks, many CIOs plan to stay with XP in the foreseeable future, given the investment required. "It means also upgrading to Office and possibly Exchange and now Windows Server—there's too much cost, time and energy," says Stephen Laughlin, director of IT at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Roger Kay, founder and president of research firm Endpoint Technologies, says that Windows 7 may be an opportunity for Microsoft to try to sweep the bad vibes of Vista under the rug.

For XP users frustrated by Vista, Windows 7 may appear like a fresh new start, even if underneath it is just an enhanced version of Vista, Kay says.

"Vista was such a giant leap from XP, and for many it was disappointing and adoption has been slow," Kay says. "The leap from XP to 7 will be harder in some respects, so it is key for Microsoft to preserve what was good in Vista and fix what didn't work."

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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