Windows 7 is on a (slow) roll

Enterprise IT wants Windows 7. It's just not in a hurry to get it.

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"The recession and continuing economic conditions have had an impact on our speed of deployment," says Art Sebastiano, vice president of applications at ModusLink Global Solutions, a provider of supply chain management services. At this point, about half of the firm's 3,500 machines are now on Windows 7, and Sebastiano says the IT team is kicking into high gear and hopes to be done by year's end.

Kevin Calvert, location director at WorleyParsons Ltd., which designs and builds refineries and chemical plants, says his business unit decided to keep the XP-based Dell computers used by about 500 employees as they came off lease. "During the downturn we looked at the residual value and said, 'Why don't we buy them out, keep them running and save a few bucks,'" he says.

Over the coming year he expects to bring in enough new machines to get Windows 7 penetration to 50%. "But the rest of the machines will have to be reimaged as we can get to them," he says.

Other firms seem to share the view that there's no rush. At Caesar's Entertainment Inc., 99% of the company's 21,000 desktops and laptops remain on Windows XP. "We are a late adopter, and deliberately so. A technical requirement or business value could cause us to move faster, but there's no urgency," says Bruce Wilby, director of Wintel engineering. Instead, he says, "We see the April 2014 exit for extended [XP] support as the deadline, and we are working toward it."

Sam Gross, who as vice president of global outsourcing solutions at Unisys helps corporate clients plan Windows 7 deployments, thinks companies like Caesar's might want to move the goalposts up a bit.

Hardware and software vendors are likely to drop Windows XP support well before Microsoft's own support ends [see sidebar]. "The timeframe for action is actually narrower than you think," he says.

Both Silver and Gross expect software and hardware vendors to start dropping support for XP by 2013. In other words, vendors won't test future versions of XP-related products for compatibility nor support users running their wares on that operating system.

For better or worse, there's less of a sense of urgency at this stage of the game than there has been for Windows upgrade cycles in the past, Gross says.

In fact, some organizations have been hamstrung by application software that doesn't yet support Windows 7. "A lot of vendors aren't ready until 12 months after Windows ships, for many it's 18 months, and for some verticals it can be two years," which is about where Windows 7 is now, says Silver.

Which version of Windows is currently running in your IT operation?

[Select all that apply]

Windows 7 - 73%
Windows XP - 82%
Windows Vista - 16%
Windows 2000 - 12%
Windows 98 - 3%
Windows 95 - 1%

Source: Computerworld online survey; 210 respondents

Axium Healthcare Pharmacy put its Windows 7 plans on hold more than a year ago after discovering that several major applications didn't support it. "Since then we've upgraded or removed those applications," says Norbert Cointepoix, senior director of IT. Like Pella, Axium has stretched out the PC lifecycle to five years. About 50% of the company is now on Windows 7, but the process is moving slowly. "It will be 2013 before we get off XP entirely," he says.

Thomas' team at Pella has been able to upgrade core applications to current releases, which are now Windows 7-compatible, or tweak them to make them work. But, he says "We still have 50 one-offs out there that we haven't gotten to."

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