Most Windows 7 upgrades taking place in next 12 months

Eleven percent of Microsoft customers have already completed Windows 7 migrations

More than 10% of enterprises have already completed Windows 7 migrations, and most others will at least begin the process this year or in 2011, a recent poll suggests.

Eleven percent of Microsoft customers have finished Windows 7 upgrades, 50% will start upgrading in the next six to 12 months, and an additional 27% plan to start upgrading in the next one to two years. That's according to a Sept. 30 poll of 115 IT decision makers who are clients of the analyst firm Directions on Microsoft.

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Directions on Microsoft customers are typically businesses with at least 1,000 desktops.

Several factors are contributing to the rush toward Windows 7. Many businesses skipped the widely criticized Windows Vista and therefore have most of their PCs on the nearly-10-year-old Windows XP. With an economic recovery starting, at least tentatively, and businesses having delayed major upgrades during the recession, some IT shops "actually have a lot of cash," says Directions on Microsoft analyst Paul DeGroot. 

There is also the presence of Windows 7 Service Pack 1, which is now in beta and will get a full release in the first half of 2011. The first service pack for a new version of Windows is a traditional milestone that convinces many IT shops to upgrade, DeGroot says.

Although the sample size of 115 IT decision makers isn't incredibly large, it is big enough to be statistically significant, and has a margin of error of about 3%, according to Directions on Microsoft. The sample included many different job titles, including CEO, CTO, and IT directors, managers and architects.

"With 88% of respondents indicating that they have or will upgrade to Windows 7 in the next two years, Windows 7 is being adopted far more rapidly than Vista," the analyst firm reports. "In a comparable three-year time period, Vista deployment barely topped 25% while Windows XP remained on more than 50% of business computers."

Directions on Microsoft also asked clients who have plans for Windows 7 to describe how they will purchase licenses. Thirty-eight percent said they will acquire Windows 7 by purchasing new hardware with Windows 7 preinstalled, and the rest will use Enterprise Agreement subscriptions or other volume licensing programs.

Operating system upgrades often coincide with hardware upgrades, but that doesn't mean IT shops have to buy new PCs for staff when they upgrade to Windows 7. Machines purchased in 2007 or later, even if they currently run Windows XP, should likely run Windows 7 just fine as long as they are Vista-compatible, according to DeGroot.

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