Deja vu all over again: Windows 7 will be the new XP

Start planning now for booting Windows 7 out of the enterprise, urge analysts

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Gartner expects that Threshold -- possibly called "Windows 9" in the end, although there are arguments against using another numeral -- will launch in the second quarter of 2015. Some pundits, including long-time Microsoft watchers like ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley, have pegged the spring of next year, effectively the same timetable. Foley has also said that Microsoft will publicly preview Threshold this fall.

But why plan at all? Why not just do what Microsoft would love for customers to do, move now to Windows 8? "I don't see Windows 8 turning around or organizations grabbing Windows 8," Silver answered.

While that take wasn't unexpected -- industry analysts have been saying that since before Windows 8's debut -- Gartner was blunt. "Organizations have been hesitant to deploy Windows 8 on non-touch devices because of concerns surrounding the new user experience" and "don't upgrade existing Windows 7 PCs to Windows 8 without a business case," the report stated.

Microsoft itself has signaled it's accepted Windows 8's fate, and has moved on: Not only has it begun to downplay Windows 8 in its corporate messaging, it plans no new major updates, but will instead deliver new features in monthly small packets, a process that started Tuesday.

But although Silver said Windows 8 was effectively off the table, he and Kleynhans still included the reputation-challenged OS in the options they laid out.

Companies can deploy Windows 8 on new PCs as they arrive, the two said, to phase out Windows 7 over time; or enterprises can deploy Windows 8 across the board to scrub out its 2009 predecessor. The first, they said, "may make sense for many organizations," but the second they dismissed. "We see little value in doing this," they wrote in their report.

The third road in their trio was the one they bet most companies will take: Skip Windows 8, and plan to deploy what they called "Windows v.Future," which might be Windows 9, or perhaps the iteration after that.

Silver called it Option 2B. "That will be the one a lot of folks choose," said Silver.

The problem with that choice, however, is that it will involve additional cost, because the migration won't start until 2018 or 2019, not enough time to ease into Windows v.Future organically as old machines are replaced with new systems. Organizations will have to budget extra funds to plan, coordinate and execute the last-minute migration.

A riff on that, said Gartner, would be to accept that Windows 7 will not be gone by January 2020, and then prepare to pay Microsoft for at least one year of custom support after Windows 7 falls off the public patch list.

Those custom support plans, which provide patches for critical vulnerabilities only to firms that pay for them, had been very expensive, with reports of companies forking over millions for an additional year. But in early April, just days before Windows XP was put to pasture, Microsoft drastically dropped the prices for its Custom Support Agreements, or CSAs, to a maximum of $250,000. There's no guarantee that those prices will remain static, Gartner noted: Microsoft has frequently moved the dollar figures up and down over the years.

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