Microsoft’s been working hard to build a positive buzz around the release to manufacturing (RTM) of Windows 7, but there remain a few flies in the ointment.
Many enterprises may decide to wait until the first service pack comes out in about six months before moving to Windows 7. Also, complaints have already been popping up on the Windows Team Blog about staggered release dates and incomplete information.
Hitches aside, though, Windows XP — the Microsoft OS that preceded the current Vista OS and which may businesses still run — is beginning to show its age, and many companies will need to move along to a new operating system eventually, meaning Windows 7 will likely make its mark.
Announcing the Windows 7 RTM, Kinda, Sorta
On Wednesday, Windows Team member Brandon LeBlanc announced that Windows 7 has moved to RTM.
“We delivered Windows 7 with a predictable feature set on a predictable timetable that allowed OEMs to focus on value and differentiation for their customers,” he wrote.
The RTM code will be delivered to partners within the next few days, and general availability remains set for Oct. 22, LeBlanc said.
Where IT Experts Fear to Tread
The move to Windows 7 won’t necessarily be an easy one — on Thursday, the Windows Team posted a memo titled “Is Your Application Ready for Windows 7 RTM?” on its blog. It listed a plethora of adjustments needed for the switch to the new operating system.
They boil down to three things: Make sure applications are Windows 7 compatible; optimize the application experience and performance for the new OS; and provide new and exciting user experiences with Windows 7.
That work can be more tedious than it sounds, and application compatibility problems discovered so far range from version checking to data redirection to issues with IE Protected Mode to screen resolution.
“A lot of our customers are looking for training,” Wynn White, vice president of marketing and management at appliance vendor Kace told TechNewsWorld. “Their older apps aren’t going to work, they’ll have to reformat the disk and do a fresh install, and that’ll be a huge issue.”
Windows 7 probably won’t be adopted widely until around mid-2010, White predicted.
“You won’t see widespread adoption until the first service pack comes out, because organizations don’t trust the code base of a new operating system,” he explained. “The first service pack is typically issued five to six months after the operating system is released.”
Another reason for the delay is the need to buy new hardware, White added. Windows 7 won’t run on some existing computers, but in the current recession, getting funds for new purchases is difficult.
Moving With Fear and Dread
White’s prediction is backed up by the results of a survey Kace conducted on its more than 1,100 customers back in April with the help of Dimensional Research. The results showed that 84 percent of the respondents had no plans to upgrade to Windows 7 in the next year.
About half of them blamed the current economic conditions for this.
More than 72 percent of the respondents said they were more concerned about upgrading to Windows 7 than staying on Windows XP. The majority of them — 88 percent — were worried about software compatibility.
About half the respondents had considered switching to an alternative operating system to avoid Windows Vista and Windows 7, and 14 percent of them had begun the switch.
That could be one of the reasons for the growing penetration of Macs into the enterprise.
Finally, 53 percent of those who planned to upgrade to Windows 7 said they will do so primarily to avoid Windows Vista.
Controlling the Release
Nevertheless, Microsoft is soldiering on. It will release Windows 7 in stages, and in all cases, the English language versions will be issued first.
The first RTM releases will be available on Aug. 6 and will be for independent software and hardware vendors. Further roll-outs to other categories such as Gold partners and Action Pack subscribers, will continue through October.
Reaction to the announcements was mixed. “Great job!” wrote dvd871 in his comments on the Microsoft posts. “I’ve been looking forward to this moment for months!” Imran Hussain also praised Microsoft in his response.
However, several other commenters were not so pleased. “Thanks for the incomplete announcement,” wrote wolft. “Please give us the build-string.” Dick van Duijn and howardthomson also wanted the full build string, while King InuYasha and Rory Becker asked why it takes two weeks for the RTM build to become available on MSDN and other sites.
Microsoft declined to comment.
Why Not All at Once?
The Windows 7 release is being staggered for two reasons, Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld.
First, it’s an attempt to combat software pirates. “In previous releases, Microsoft had serious problems with unreleased code making it out to China and other parts of Asia,” Enderle said. By staggering releases, Microsoft will be able to trace leaks back to the source.
Second, Microsoft needs to ensure its support capability is up to scratch. “Microsoft won’t be geared up to fully support this product until Oct. 22,” Enderle explained. “Their trainers are out working with partners and OEMs and aren’t training their own people.”
Gotta Have It?
Whether or not they want to, businesses and consumers will need to move to Windows 7 eventually unless they opt for an alternative such as the Mac or Linux.
“The vast majority of businesses are still running XP and, at this point, it’s a relatively old technology and they have to do something about it sooner or later,” Kace’s White said.
“With Vista, users had a choice — XP was a robust operating system, and there wasn’t really a need to move to Vista when it had issues with compatibility, popups that came up with user controls and so on.”