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Big biz 'struggling' to dump Windows XP

Microsoft's bagged only easy Win 7 wins, says Browsium

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Windows 7 is running in just 20 per cent of large enterprises with the most difficult migrations yet to come.

That’s according to web browser specialist Browsium, which said 80 per cent of big companies - those with 10,000 or more PCs - are still clinging to Windows XP even though support for it is due to end in two years. But IT department bosses fear the cost, difficulty and disruption of moving business-critical apps from Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 6 and 7, which are off-limits on Windows 7.

The figures take the shine off a claim this month from Windows and Windows Live group exec Tami Reller, who told 16,000 partners that more than 50 per cent of enterprise desktops are running Windows 7, which was released in October 2009.

The Browsium team, which sells a tool to run IE6-only apps on Windows 7, quibbled with Reller’s numbers. The startup said the migrations so far have been easy ones in mostly small- and medium-sized businesses and in education. It's still an uphill, and IE is the sticking point.

“Regardless of your optimistic or pessimistic view of '50 per cent', we’re finding trouble brewing behind the data,” the Browsium gang blogged here.

“When you look at very large enterprise – banks, healthcare and insurance companies, government organizations – where Browsium does the majority of our business, the picture is not so rosy. These enterprises are struggling to migrate from Windows XP to Windows 7 … and to eradicate IE6 and IE7 in the process.”

Browsium claimed its estimate is backed up by the people it talks to: chief information officers, systems integrators who run migration projects, and even Microsoft’s own sales force.

“We continually hear that legacy web applications are the number one blocker to migration. When it costs millions of dollars to rewrite or replace a critical business application, migration projects invariably stall until a cost-effective solution can be found," the blog coninued.

Browsium offers a web browser plugin called Ion, which runs IE6 and IE7-only apps in IE8 and IE9 on Windows 7. It does this by recreating the IE6 environment, including configuration files and security settings, within newer browsers.

Microsoft’s own advice on moving apps off of IE6 and IE7 isn’t particularly helpful – in fact it’s probably compounding the problem: developers are told to rewrite old apps, which will cost time and money.

Browsium, set up and run by ex-Microsoft IE experts, is two years old but the UK's tax office, HM Revenue and Customs, is among its customers. HMRC is in the process of moving 85,000 PCs off IE6 and Windows XP to IE8 and Windows 7. The cost to HMRC is just £1.28m – compared to a reported bill of £35m using the recommended approach of an application rewrite. ®

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