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Gartner: Think twice before deploying Windows 7

The consultancy says prepare for Windows 9 or prepare to go through more XP headaches.

Companies have been less willing to embrace Windows 8, preferring instead to downgrade PCs they deploy with Windows 7 instead. All well and good, but Gartner is advising them that unless they want to go through another XP-like headache, they should start preparing to move off Windows 7 instead of to it.

Windows 7 will be supported until 2020 and is still very popular, but it is also five years old now and getting a little long in the tooth. Microsoft has given up trying to make people like Windows 8 and is charging full steam ahead with Windows 9, a.k.a. Threshold, for a Q2 2015 release. Stephen Kleynhans, research vice president at Gartner said in a blog post on Tuesday, “While this feels like it’s a long way off, organizations must start planning now, so they can prevent a recurrence of what happened with Windows XP.”

Like XP, Windows 7’s lifespan has been artificially extended because people hated its successor. When Microsoft officially ended support for Windows XP on April 8—after 13 years – around 25% of all PCs were still running XP.

This ended up being good for PC sales, as it forced some upgrades. However, that was a consumer phenomenon; it’s doubtful many enterprises buy their laptops from Best Buy. Kleynhans advises one of the following three options. The first is to stop downgrading new machines to Windows 7 and just bring in Windows 8-based machines for now. This will cause a gradual replacement of Windows 7 during the company’s hardware refresh cycle. “This may make sense for many organizations,” he wrote.

Option two is to skip Windows 8 and plan to deploy the next version of Windows to replace everything. “We believe most organizations will do this. With this strategy, many will not eliminate Windows 7 before support ends unless they budget extra funding to do so,” he wrote.

The final option, deploy Windows 8 on all PCs to eliminate Windows 7, was not given a solid endorsement. “We see little value in doing this, and do not recommend it without a solid business case,” he wrote.

Kleynhans noted Microsoft has adopted “a more fluid approach” to releasing and updating Windows, IT doesn’t like that kind of disruption. It prefers stability, which is one reason why XP took root for so long. Windows 8.1 and its two updates would mean validating a lot of hardware and software before deployment.

He acknowledged that application compatibility would be the biggest problem many organizations face. “The vast majority of Win32 applications that run on Windows 7 will run on future releases, but having applications is only one component of application compatibility.

Many organizations, especially those in industries with government oversight or compliance requirements, require applications to be officially supported by the independent software vendor (ISV) and/or go through validation processes to ensure compatibility. Such organizations may find skipping Windows 8 for most devices makes sense,” Kleynhans wrote.

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