Microsoft's OS Future Rides on Windows 7

Microsoft Corp.'s standing as an operating system developer is on the line with the launch of Windows 7 , according to analysts and other experts.

Late last month, the company formally unveiled its next-generation operating system -- the first new Windows release since co-founder and longtime CEO Bill Gates departed in 2008 .

"There's a reputation issue at stake here," said Michael Silver, an analyst at Gartner Inc. "Apple has been making fun of them, and Microsoft wants to put an end to that."

Preston Gralla , a Computerworld contributing editor who has extensively reviewed Windows 7 , said that in following the roundly criticized Windows Vista operating system, "Windows 7 will show if [Microsoft] can do operating systems right, or if they've finally lost it."

Microsoft finds itself vulnerable because of its continuing failure to persuade users to upgrade from Windows XP to Vista since the latter's release three years ago.

The older Windows XP is still used by 72% of computer users worldwide, while just 19% are running Vista, according to Net Applications in Aliso Viejo, Calif.

Though Microsoft last week acknowledged that "isolated issues" caused endless reboots among some users trying to upgrade from Vista to Windows 7, initial data from early corporate adopters of Windows 7 indicates that the new operating system can cut power costs while saving its users significant time by booting up more quickly.

The group policy controls in Windows 7 are already helping IT personnel at Pella Corp. better manage power use, said Jim Thomas, director of IT operations at the Des Moines-based maker of windows and doors, which has distributed Windows 7 to 200 of its 4,000 users. Users can temporarily reset power management controls, "but every time the group policy reapplies, it puts the power setting down that we want to apply," he said.

Thomas conservatively estimated that using Windows 7 will result in about $20,000 in annual power savings once the software is fully deployed in 2011.

At Automatic Data Processing Inc. in Roseland, N.J., about 300 of the 30,000 users are running the new operating system, said CIO Mike Capone. He said he has seen estimates that the power management capabilities could deliver savings "into the six-figure range" annually once ADP completes its full rollout, which it expects to do within 36 months.

Randy Benz, CIO at St. Louis-based Energizer Holdings Inc., said that a Windows 7 pilot among 40 users found that the operating system boots up some 80% faster than XP, which can take up to five minutes.

Roger Kay, an analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates Inc. in Wayland, Mass., noted that "Microsoft in this case wanted to underpromise and overdeliver, which is the opposite of what it did with Vista." Freelance writer

Marc Ferranti of the IDG News service and Linda Rosencrance contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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