Enterprises will snub Microsoft's faster release tempo by sticking with Windows 7

Ballmer doesn't get it, says Gartner analyst: Businesses don't want to deal with annual Windows updates

Enterprises will standardize on Windows 7 and Office 2010 and will ignore Microsoft's newer operating system and suite for years, research firm Gartner predicted.

"There's a good chance that enterprises will stay on Windows 7 as long as possible," said Gartner analyst Michael Silver in an interview last week after hosting an hourlong presentation at the firm's annual IT conference in Orlando, Fla.

Silver based his forecast on the tactics he saw available to enterprises as they try to adapt to Microsoft's double-whammy of quickening the pace of Windows releases and shifting to a new user interface (UI), dubbed "Modern" or "Metro," that eschews legacy applications for touch-based, mobile-like "apps."

"In a year or two, there will be another release of Windows 8, [and] that will have another release of IE on it. Meanwhile, the Windows desktop is not changing much ... it's essentially on life support," Silver reasoned.

In a slide shown to the audience during Silver's time on stage, Gartner suggested that one way to deal with the faster release cadence and the emphasis on Metro was to simply "hold up" by staying on the proven Windows 7. "Use the 10-year lifecycle of Windows 7/Office 2010 to standardize," the slide read.

Microsoft has pledged to support Windows 7 for the standard decade. It will patch vulnerabilities and non-security bugs until Jan. 13, 2015, in what the Redmond, Wash., developer calls "mainstream support." After that, it will provide security updates only through Jan. 14, 2020 during the "extended support" phase.

Companies can use that promise to stick with Windows 7 -- and Office 2010, which will be supported through Oct. 13, 2020 -- for the next six years. But because such a strategy would require companies to duplicate the frantic ditching of the aged Windows XP before it rolls into retirement next April, Gartner recommended businesses begin migrating off Windows 7 at the end of 2017 and start dumping Office 2010 at the end of 2018.

The alternative to standardizing on Windows 7, said Silver, was to keep up with Microsoft's quickened release tempo. That would demand a much faster deployment pace, where companies would conduct testing and application remediation in 12 months, then deploy the current OS in the following 12 months. And repeat the process ad infinitum.

Because of the constant churn, businesses would be forced to do both -- test and remediate the newest OS and deploy its predecessor -- in the same 12-month span. When Microsoft launches Windows 8.1 this week, the test/remediate clock will begin ticking. But most analysts, including Gartner, expect Microsoft to debut Windows 8.2 a year from now.

Gartner chart on Microsoft's accelerated release pace for Windows
One way to deal with Microsoft's accelerated release pace for Windows is to standardize on Windows 7 and Office 2010. (Image: Gartner.)
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