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Enterprises playing hard to get with Windows 7

Forrester says only 10 percent of business PCs run new OS; Microsoft doesn't have a number

Windows 7 has been an undeniable success for Microsoft, as the company noted in its latest earnings call that 300 million Windows 7 licenses have been sold so far and that 20 percent of the PCs around the world that are connected to the Internet run the new operating system. So why is the penetration rate half that with businesses? One industry player says it seems many of them just aren’t in any rush to upgrade.

The 10 percent figure comes from a Forrester Research report from last November and refers to sales to businesses in Europe and North America only. In announcing Microsoft’s earnings yesterday for the quarter ended Dec. 31, Chief Financial Officer Peter Klein cited IDC research that close to 90 percent of enterprise companies worldwide had begun their “formal migration” to Windows 7. But pressed by an investment analyst later in the call, Klein couldn’t provide a penetration figure, which makes me wonder how far into the migration process all those companies are.

“It's very early,” Klein said. Anecdotally, however, “the majority of the people I talk to [sales reps or customers] are either in the middle of doing it, or at the last stages of evaluating it, and have a specific plan to do it. “

So, all we have right now is Forrester ‘s 10 percent figure. But it also said that most promising for Microsoft is that 31 percent of new PCs being purchased by businesses will be running Windows 7 and a year from now, that figure will rise to 83 percent. But Aaron Suzuki, the CEO of Prowess, a company that sells software migration tools to businesses, sees a lack of enthusiasm in the market for taking on a large scale migration.

"Wide-scale deployment of Windows 7 is a lot further out than a lot of people think. Our customers do not seem to be in any hurry,” Suzuki said in an interview.

Not that Prowess isn’t trying hard to remove perhaps the biggest obstacle to migration of fixing all the little compatibility problems that pop up in an organization. This week, the company introduced the latest version of its SmartDeploy Enterprise software deployment toolkit, which creates a virtual disk image of Windows 7, associated software and other configuration settings and then replicates that image to servers and desktop computers on a company’s network. SmartDeploy tries to take the pain out of migration such by managing compatibility with older versions of software or differences in hardware brands.

Suzuki isn’t the only one seeing balky adoption of Windows 7. IDC analyst Al Gillen told Network World’s Jon Brodkin that IT organizations often "underestimate how long it will take them to [test applications and fix problems]; don't build a business case or properly track the benefits of their projects; [and] allocate insufficient time for their pilot."

Forrester anticipates it may take as long as three years to complete the migration to Windows 7 in the business market. This doesn’t indicate that there’s something lacking in Windows 7, but that, despite the efforts of companies like Prowess to streamline the process, migration is still a big pain.

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