Seventy-five percent of commercial PCs are still running Windows XP, says a recent Windows 7 Adoption Outlook report by Forrester Research analysts Benjamin Gray and Christian Kane. That’s not only a sign of XP’s impressive longevity, but also a sign of how stagnant the PC market has been for years.
But finally, the times are changing, as noted by the report’s survey that includes nearly 800 IT decision-makers: 46 percent of firms expect to migrate to Windows 7 within the next 12 months and 42 percent expect to do it in more than 12 months.
Now that Windows 7 is a proven commodity and its security, networking and virtualization features are better known, the reasons for deploying Windows 7 are moving beyond the general need (computers are old, XP is old) to the desire to use more specific Windows 7 enterprise features such as BranchCache, DirectAcess and BitLocker to Go, according to the Forrester report.
Also, Microsoft’s virtualization tools such as XP Mode, and its desktop virtualization (Med-V) and application virtualization (App-V) tools for Software Assurance customers are helping businesses migrate applications not compatible with Windows 7.
But whether you are deploying Windows 7 as part of a PC refresh cycle or doing a company-wide migration all at once, it’s important to keep in mind the timing of your Windows 7 migration, the timing of Windows XP’s slow death and the application testing involved, writes Forrester.
Here are three recommendations about timing a Windows 7 deployment.
Understand How to Support the Dying Windows XP
The long, happy life of Windows XP is in its autumn years. The most popular version of Windows stopped receiving mainstream support in April, 2009. Mainstream support includes free and paid customer support, design change requests and free fixes for security patches and other bugs. Full support of this kind usually only lasts five years, but with Windows XP it lasted seven and a half years, mostly due to Windows Vista’s delayed release and poor reception.
[ For complete coverage on Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system — including hands-on reviews, video tutorials and advice on enterprise rollouts — see CIO.com’s Windows 7 Bible. ]
As of April, 2009 Windows XP has been in the extended support phase, which means businesses will still get free security updates and fixes, but will have to pay for technical support. Warranty claims and design changes are also no longer offered during extended support. Non-security hot fixes are provided to companies — mostly enterprises — that have enrolled in Microsoft’s Extended Hotfix Support program.
On April 8, 2014, all Windows XP support, including security updates and security-related hotfixes, will be terminated.
Definitely Get Off XP Before End of 2012
Forrester recommends that Windows XP shops should speed up application compatibility testing against Windows 7 SP1, which has been out in beta since July. The best course of action, according to the Forrester report, is to “tie Windows 7 upgrades to the natural PC refresh cycle of the business.”
But however a company structures its Windows 7 migration, it should keep in mind Windows XP’s dwindling support and get off XP by the end of 2012 at the latest, Forrester warns.
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Extended support for Windows XP service pack 2 (SP2) ended in July of this year, so if you’re running SP2, it’s time to move on to SP3 or Windows 7, writes Forrester. Extended support for Windows XP SP3 lasts until April 2014, when all support for the OS ends completely.
Vista Customers: Move to Windows 7 SP1 ASAP
Vista users are in relatively short supply, but if you are one of the brave, Forrester recommends upgrading to Windows 7 as soon as possible to keep getting mainstream support.
Mainstream support for Vista ends on April 10, 2012.
“Keep testing applications for compatibility against Windows 7 SP1,” states the Forrester report. “For PCs that reach their natural end of life, begin deploying Windows 7 SP1 on the replacement hardware, and plan to have companywide Windows 7 migration done before April 2012, when mainstream support for Vista ends.”
Shane O’Neill covers Microsoft, Windows, Operating Systems, Productivity Apps and Online Services for CIO.com. Follow Shane on Twitter @smoneill. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Shane at firstname.lastname@example.org.