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How Windows 7 can save you money

But results on ROI calculator look wildly optimistic

Microsoft has redeemed itself with the introduction of the Windows 7 operating system last year and new stats provide further evidence that the company has put the Vista debacle behind it. But while Microsoft is enjoying Windows 7’s success, particularly with consumers, it is also pressing enterprises to migrate to it by providing an online ROI calculator.

The research firm Janco Associates released a report this month, “Browser and OS Market Share Study,” that shows Windows 7 market share has surpassed that of Windows Vista (17.39 percent versus 10.78 percent). By this time next year, Janco predicts, Vista should be “a distant memory.”

As I’ve noted earlier, it’s relatively easy for a consumer to either upgrade to Windows 7 from what they’re using now or just buy a new computer with the OS pre-installed, but it’s a big project for a company to migrate hundreds or thousands of computers to Windows 7. As further incentive, Microsoft points customers to the Web page “Microsoft Windows 7 ROI Tool Lite,” in which IT managers can enter some basic stats about their organization, what they’re running now and the calculator produces an ROI figure. It take it that “Lite” means this is kind of a ballpark number and your mileage may vary.

I tried it out, describing a company in the media industry with 100 employees that is based in Massachusetts (as is Network World). The calculation was based on an assumption that all the PCs in the company were running Windows XP. The results: upgrading to Windows 7 Professional would cost the company $21,838, would yield an annual savings per PC of $650.27, or $65,027 for all 100 PCs, three-year savings of $195,082 and a return on investment of 793 percent (that is not a typo). The upgrade would pay for itself in fewer than four months, the calculator determined.

If a 793 percent ROI sounds too good to be true, you are right to be skeptical. My first question would be about the $21,838 cost of the upgrade. Is that just for the price of the software licenses or does it also include the cost to your organization of planning for the upgrade, deploying it, testing it, working out bugs? And what if hardware has to be upgraded, too, for whatever reason?

It’s also unclear how the savings are measured. Does a Windows 7 computer use less electricity than one running Vista or XP? I suspect the savings may be measured in terms of increased productivity if the OS runs faster. Among the benefits of Windows 7, according to Microsoft, are better management of open windows on your desktop, quicker search capability for files, programs or e-mails, easier sharing of files between different Windows 7 computers and other improvements that allow the end user to “do more and wait less.”

My computer runs Windows 7 and it’s much improved over the one I had running Vista. It runs much faster. I particularly like the “Snap” function that lets me put two images side-by-side on the desktop by flicking one image to my left, the other to my right. I’m using it to write this post on one side with my notes on the other.

Microsoft clearly has a winner with Windows 7, having sold 175 million licenses through last month. But if you’re an enterprise, of course, you’ve got more decisions to make about a migration. Try out the ROI calculator if you like, but whatever you do, don’t just print out the results and run into your CFO’s office and say, “What other investment do you know of that returns an ROI of 793 percent?” You may be laughed right back out of that office.

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