Enterprises like, don't love, Windows 7

CIOs say they are in no rush to upgrade from XP

Consumers may appear to be snapping up Windows 7, but large companies won't, according to CIOs interviewed this week.

IT leaders who spoke to Computerworld at the Society for Information Management's SIMposium 09 conference this week in Seattle say their companies remain almost completely running Windows XP on the desktop.

Despite the eight years that have passed since XP's release, they expressed little urgency to upgrade to Windows 7.

Peter Whatnell, CIO for Sunoco Inc., said the petroleum retailer won't move to Windows 7 for at least two years.

"There's nothing driving us to go to that new environment, because of the nature of our company and our industry," said Whatnell.

Sunoco has 8,500 employees, but only 1,000 have PCs. All of them run XP. Most were upgraded to Office 2003 only at the beginning of this year.

While Sunoco mostly runs Microsoft software, it is also what Whatnell calls Sunoco an "N minus 1" shop, meaning that the company is at least one -- and often two -- versions behind the latest software release.

"Windows 7 runs like a champ on my personal netbook, but we don't really need it," he said.

Chubb Corp. is just starting to plan its testing and rollout of Windows 7, said CIO Jim Knight. "We will do [the upgrade], but it will be slow and steady," he said. The Warren, N.J.-based insurer has 10,000 employee PCs, all on XP.

Enterprises have traditionally waited until the arrival of the first service pack before upgrading Windows, if not later. But Microsoft likely hopes that pent-up demand from enterprises would cause a faster uptake.

Microsoft reaps its highest profits from enterprise agreements. Such licenses, which require the purchase of three-year Software Assurance maintenance agreements, result in corporations paying nearly twice the full license price of Windows over that period.

By comparison, a consumer buying a new PC gets an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) license of Windows, which is sold by Microsoft to the PC manufacturer at a huge discount to the list price.

Mueller Water Products Inc. also doesn't expect to begin rolling out Windows 7 to its 2,200 desktops for another 18 to 24 months.

"We have been playing with the Windows 7 betas," said Bob Keefe, CIO of the Atlanta manufacturer. "We certainly like it more than Vista."

None of the CIOs said they were deploying either Mac or Linux computers in significant numbers, not even Curt Pederson, CIO of Oregon State University.

Oregon State's Open Source Lab hosts a number of open-source projects in its data centers for public download. They include the Apache Web server, Drupal content management system, Gentoo Linux, the Linux kernel itself, and others. OSU also runs mostly open-source software in its back-end infrastructure.

But Pederson says deep educational discounts, combined with faculty interest in staying on Windows and Microsoft Office, keeps the 3,000 desktops that his group manages on XP.

OSU plans to deploy Windows 7 in staggered rollouts of new PCs, though Pederson said a timetable has not been decided.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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