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Windows 7 - Microsoft minus the martyrdom

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Such has been Microsoft's focus on consumers when launching and advertising Windows 7, you'd be forgiven for thinking business users didn't even exist.

Yet, in early 2010, the wave of Windows 7 rollout will begin inside Microsoft-centric IT shops.

A study of 184 customers considered mid- and large-sized customers by desktop management specialist Kace Networks found that 30 per cent have secured funding for rollouts of Microsoft's newest operating system in 2010.

Not bad when you consider that Kace found 44 per cent had no IT projects budgeted for 2010 whatsoever - and that Windows 7 was only released just over one month ago. The survey ran between October 26 and November 4.

A group of four customers - all Windows shops - speaking to The Reg at Kace's recent conference in San Francisco, California said they planned to start rollouts from March onwards. El Reg spoke to MSD Capital's Jason Palatty, workstation administrator Christopher Blake, and IT technician Dale Tuttle for architectural engineering firms Benchmark Group and EYP, and the director of network operations for non-profit IT services specialist Techsoup Global Timothy Suttle.

Surely, you'd expect Microsoft shops to jump on the new stuff from their preferred tech supplier. But apparently, no. Even though they run Microsoft for servers, databases, web site, collaboration and Office suites, Windows 7 will be their first big move to a brand new client operating since Window XP - released eight years back.

That's right. They skipped Vista.

Why? While plenty of people - Microsoft especially - have been praising Windows 7's improved stability and performance, there's one thing IT departments feel they can avoid and that they would have incurred had they rolled out Windows Vista: a roasting from angry users.

"Windows Vista was not a bad platform. It had some bugs sure, but they did redesign the mother ship from the ground up so that was excusable," Blake confessed.

"It would have worked quite well in our enterprise apart from a few glitches, but the overwhelming hatred from users who hadn't used it wasn't something I wasn't willing to contend with."

Suttle agreed: "Performance issues would have prevented us moving forward. We'd have been martyrs. The user base probably would have revolted if we'd trued to move into Windows Vista because of performance issues."

Palatty said the issue was psychological for his users, who include tech-savvy hedge fund managers who like to pick up the technologies of companies they investing in. Palatty said he had liked Windows Vista for Bitlocker, which would protect very important trading and investment information on the hard drives of steal-able laptops, but Windows Vista's negative publicity and different interface compared to Windows XP were counter productive.

"Users had to adapt and learn a new operating system. Out of the box, Microsoft likes to throw out all these new features and a lot of the time people didn't care about that," Palatty said. According to Tuttle: "If somebody never used Vista they hated it, even if you told them why they'd like it."

All in the head

The issue was indeed psychological for IT: It was more hard work than it was worth to push a technology on a group of people who's decided they'd hated it. Blake, at least, likes to make users like and want the technology and to become familiar with it - not force it on them.

But things are quite different on Windows 7. According to Suttle: "We are already getting requests, people are excited about Windows 7 and are looking to move."

Why the shift? According to the group, Windows Vista's bad word of mouth was a major hurdle. This time, though, Microsoft prepared the ground ahead of the Windows 7 launch and planted the seeds of positive messaging to give the client a good rep out of the gate.

The Windows 7 beta program encompassed a broad number of users beyond the usual clique of tech testers. Also, it released Windows 7 ahead of the initially talked about 2010 deadline, creating the impression Microsoft's released something quickly and ahead of schedule instead of the standard late - something that's added to curiosity and good will among potential new users.

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