Windows 7: Corporate customers bullish on adoption plans

Many companies that eschewed Vista will go straight from XP to Windows 7

Corporate adoption of Windows 7, Microsoft's new operating system released today, seems to be more a question of when, not if. This is in stark contrast to what happened with Windows Vista, which companies skipped right over; many are, in fact, migrating from Windows XP directly to Windows 7.

San Francisco-based Del Monte Corp., for example, plans to fully deploy Windows 7 on its 3,200 PCs within the next 2 ½ to 3 years. "Our goal at Del Monte is to be at the forefront of technology, to be first in class, so we're leading with a lot of Microsoft initiatives. We're an early adopter of Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010," says Jonathan Wynn, manager of advanced technology and collaborative services at Del Monte.

Del Monte's Jonathan Wynn
Del Monte is using Microsoft's Configuration Manager to make the move to Windows 7, says IT manager Jonathan Wynn.

Currently the vast majority of Del Monte's PCs are running Windows XP SP3; like many other companies Del Monte skipped Vista, Wynn says, because of compatibility issues. While it's moved some of its users to Windows 7, the larger transition will start in January.

"So far we have 45 business users using Windows 7, and every year we refresh about a third of our laptops and desktops, so we think in about a year we're going to be pushing out about 1,000 Windows 7 machines," Wynn says. "We've got a well-defined, well-thought-out plan as to how we're deploying and managing this."

For one thing, Del Monte users on XP who are clustered with users running Windows 7 can request to be upgraded to Windows 7. Wynn says he will accommodate that request, providing their hardware is up to snuff.

The buzz around Windows 7 from analysts, reviewers and corporate IT staffers is that it's one of the best operating systems from Microsoft they've seen in quite some time. And that's despite concerns in some quarters that migrating from XP to Windows 7 is more difficult than migrating from Vista to the new OS.

Upgrading to Windows 7 a mixed bag

Roger Kay, an analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates Inc. in Wayland, Mass., says from a technical perspective, it's pretty easy to upgrade from Vista to Windows 7; you just pop the disc in live and you upgrade.

But from XP, maybe not so much, he says.

Moving from XP to Windows 7 is fine if users get all new software, but problems may occur with customers who want to continue to use old programs, Kay says. Older software built to run in XP may not work natively in 7, although he believes Windows 7 will likely be much more successful than Vista was at finding necessary drivers.

Microsoft, for its part, recommends desktop virtualization tools as one way of running older applications. Then there are Windows XP Mode, meant mostly for small and medium-sized businesses to help run XP applications in a virtualized desktop, and parts of the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit that are intended specifically for XP to Windows 7 migration. XP Mode, however, is getting mixed reviews.

Michael Cherry, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft in Kirkland, Wash., says that even though enterprises can install Windows 7 over Vista, it is not possible to install over XP. So the best approach with XP to do a clean install.

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