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Microsoft - if not IT pros - can breath a sigh of relief, as Windows 7 has given businesses a reason for not defecting to competing desktop systems.

According to a new study released Wednesday, the number of businesses desperately looking for an alternative to Windows on the desktop has dropped significantly for the first time since Windows Vista debuted.

A global survey of more than 900 IT professionals by desktop-management specialist KACE found that just under a third are considering alternative operating systems to Windows on their PCs compared to half during 2009.

However, while enthusiasm for Windows 7 is high, the overwhelming majority are worried about the dated and customized Windows XP applications that they rely on to work with Microsoft's new operating system.

86 per cent told KACE - recently bought by Dell - that they are concerned about compatibility when migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7.

The performance of Windows 7 is a concern for a quarter of those surveyed - down from 47 per cent during the same poll last year.

Rob Meinhardt, president of Dell KACE, said in a statement announcing the survey that the lack of a direct upgrade path from Windows XP meant migrating to Windows 7 could be "challenging and costly for many organizations."

That means plenty of work for IT departments rolling out Windows 7, as they catalogue, test, and potentially rewrite the Windows XP applications to work with things such as the Windows 7 interface and menus. That will potentially slow down adoption of Windows 7 in the workplace.

Aside from migration concerns, levels of confidence in Windows 7 are high. KACE found that 87 per cent plan to deploy Windows 7 compared to 47 per cent who had plans to deploy Windows Vista at a comparable point after that operating system's release. Forty-six per cent have plans to migrate before the release of Windows 7's first service pack. ®

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