The release of Windows 7 taps into the corporate pursuit of the dollar, and perhaps concern dwindling natural resources, that is prompting many businesses to invest in green technologies which cut power-consumption. But whether the motive is altruism or capitalism, Microsoft’s latest operating system marks a simple way in which businesses can reduce watt-usage while preserving some of earth’s resources.
With the release of Windows 7, Microsoft addressed several energy-hungry aspects typically associated with modern computing. The developer focused on decreasing power-consumption; improving battery life and enhancing enterprise power manageability.
Microsoft added support for Wake on Wireless LAN (WoWLAN) and smart network power to address enterprises’ need to balance availability with savings. Windows 7 reduces power consumption by removing or coalescing background activity in the system to ensure that platforms can enter low power states more frequently. A new trigger start service capability allows background processes to start only when a specific event occurs. In addition, the operating system’s includes in-box utilities that identify which programs and network files prevent the computer from entering sleep mode, thereby making sleep more reliable and, Microsoft hopes, encouraging organizations to use this feature.
Monitors, blamed for about 40% of a system’s entire power usage, also came under scrutiny. Microsoft incorporated Adaptive Display Brightness, a feature that dims the display after a pre-set amount of inactivity.
Enter Windows 7. Microsoft has not publicly disclosed power savings, although Rob Bernard, Microsoft’s chief environmental strategist, saw laptop battery life increase 20% after he installed the new operating system. A media demonstration found a similar savings, revealing a 20% reduction in battery use compared with Windows Vista when a Windows 7 laptop played a DVD.
By the Numbers
Simple steps have been proven to save money. The City of Las Vegas, for example, saved an estimated $50,000 a year solely by centrally shutting off unused computers at night, said Joseph Marcella, CIO of the Nevada metropolis.
Although ranked behind the related subject of controlling costs and improving productivity among other future IT plans, 57% of respondents cited reducing power consumption as critically or very important, according to a Forrester Consulting study of 318 IT decision-makers commissioned by Microsoft this summer.
Across the nation, the City of Miami expects to save $54 per Windows 7 PC each year due to reduced power consumption, and a British financial services business, Baker Tilly, expects to shave $28 per PC annually because of less energy usage. Likewise, automaker BMW predicts cost-savings because of Windows 7′s faster startup and enhanced memory-management.
If someone leaves on one older computer 24 x 7, year-round, it saps an estimated 2,891 kilowatt hours annually, according to columnist Mr. Electricity at SavingElectricity.com. But a person using a more efficient, newer computer for two hours each day, five days a week, who turns it off after each use consumes only 55 kilowatt hours, the site finds. Assuming corporations leave half their PCs on practically year-round, perhaps only turning them off when individual users plan to be away from the office for an extended period, the benefits of efficiently powering down begin to add up.
Laptops, which use almost no power when unplugged and idle, consume up to 35 kilowatts when fully utilized, Microsoft said.
In fact, about 70% of corporations keep their PCs on overnight, said Jason Leznek, group project manager for Windows 7. Whether it is 70% or 17%, businesses that do not pay attention to the power-status of employees’ PCs are paying a lot of extra money for nothing more than the slight convenience of an immediately accessible PC in the morning.
A History of Efficiency
Microsoft’s energy-saving initiatives are not new: Back in 2007, the company worked closely with the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to reduce the power-consumption of Windows Vista, resulting in a touted 95% energy consumption use when a Vista-running PC was in sleep mode, according to the 1.3 million member environmental action group. That resulted in a $50 per computer savings per year; that’s chump change perhaps for a home user but a sizeable sum for enterprises which could see estimated reductions of $500,000 for an installation of 10,000 PCs, using NRDC’s figures.
NRDC lauded Microsoft for its work to reduce the electricity used by its popular Xbox gaming consoles.
No Starring Role
Berlage LLC, which is constructing an active adult retirement community of more than 550 homes near Washington, D.C., in Ruther Glen, Va., plans to upgrade its PCs to Windows 7 in both its offices in the United States and the Netherlands, said Bill Harwood, director. “I heard it started up more quickly — what a pain both XP Pro and Windows Ultimate are — and also that it was more secure and crashed less,” he said, explaining the decision to migrate.
It is, perhaps, highly unlikely that a corporation would move to Windows 7 solely because of the operating system’s energy efficiencies. But energy efficiency’s strong supporting role could mean a thumbs-up review from IT and accounting professionals — and Mother Nature.