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Who's afraid of Windows 8? Trio leads Microsoft migration pack

Internet Explorer a hurdle for most, says consultant

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Windows 8 isn't ideal for many big businesses and government users. In fact, the majority of operations running tens of thousands of PCs are only now replacing Windows XP with Windows 7 at any meaningful scale – despite Microsoft's claims to the contrary. But a few brave businesses are planning on jumping into touch and swipe with Windows 8 in the next 12 months.

Application migration and management specialist Camwood told The Reg it is currently working with three major customers who are planning a move from Windows 7 to Windows 8.

Two of are, arguably, some of the usual suspects: a financial services institution and a media company – both operations known for investing in the latest technology.

The third? A power utility – a company in a sector of the economy not usually considered on any cutting edge except in how to extract more money from its customers.

The trio, which Camwood (understandably) won't name, are migrating tens of thousands of desktops and laptops to Windows 8 and buying into Windows 8 slates.

"They are looking at Windows 8 across the board," Camwood's head of professional services Kevin Gemmel tells The Reg. "They are forward-thinking IT departments and are early adopters – always have been."

One of the three firms even bought the hardware running its current Windows 7 set-up with an view towards the eventual implementation of Windows 8, Gemmel claims.

Being on Windows 7 now is probably one of the biggest factors enabling in the move, as it means the trio are on one of the latest versions of Internet Explorer, version 8 or 9.

People on Windows XP are still using IE6 or 7; IE8 and IE9 weren't designed for Microsoft's 11-year-old operating system.

Microsoft claims 50 per cent of enterprise PCs are running Windows 7, but browser migration specialist Browsium has disputed these numbers. It reckons just 20 per cent of large companies are running Windows 7 – and that 80 per cent of those with 10,000 PCs or more are still on Windows XP.

The problem is the migration of apps that rely on the browser. While packaged apps like Photoshop – or apps lacking any plug-ins – are simple and can be moved to Windows 7 quickly, most are more complicated. The tough migrations from Windows XP to Windows 7 remain, and many of those are blocked by a dependency of the apps on IE6 or IE7.

These apps can be something like SAP or Oracle financials – complex software that is used across multiple departments – or pieces of software that have been built in-house and need the original install files. The in-house apps can typically run to hundreds of thousands of users in very large companies.

"The major blocker to Windows 7 is IE6 and IE7," Gemmel says.

And Microsoft is not helping: its official advice is to re-write the apps – but that costs time and money. It's made harder by the fact that often there are so many apps and it's hard to track down who is responsible for them.

The coding process can take weeks or months, but the human factor - getting agreement, finding code owners, users and architects, coordinating departments - is the hard part.

Gemmel quotes the example of one Camwood customer with 20,000 users of Microsoft Office, and 160 add-ons just for Excel. Then there's data migration. "If you are going to put them on VDI [Microsoft Virtual Desktop Infrastructure] or a streaming environment, it's going to become extraordinarily complex," Gemmel said.

Gemmel is positive about Windows 8 from a technology perspective, citing such features as its secure USB boot, powerful Hyper-V and more intense graphics, meaning richer displays.

He sees the technology part of the migration as just part of the challenge moving from the mouse of Windows 7 to the touch of Windows 8. The other issue is the people. This is something Camwood's early adopter customers have recognised; all three firms are re-training their users.

"For every major corporate user, that first Monday morning when they get their new Windows 8 machine they're going to struggle," Gemmel says. ®

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