From computer-aided design professionals to technology firms, educational institutions to telecommunications businesses, certain verticals could take a lead in early Windows 7 adoption.
Those industries that can best-leverage Windows 7′s much-touted benefits — smaller hardware footprint, multi-touch navigation and tablet PCs, say — will get the most out of relocating to the new operating system. As in any other widespread IT adoption, business benefits (such as improvements to ROI, productivity, and customer service) will over-rule FUD, although most experts caution the adoption will not happen overnight, or even over several months, in the enterprise.
“There are specific features of Windows 7 that have been added or enhanced, such as touch screen capabilities, that will potentially drive adoption in verticals such as health care and education,” said Russ Conwath, senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research Group.
Driven by the dual tines of dissatisfaction with Windows Vista and the improved features available on Windows 7, some markets are expected to more readily invest in Microsoft’s latest OS platter. But other industries — many of which historically are slow to implement a vendor’s latest and greatest software — are expected, at least within the next year or so, to rely on the reliable, proven, and third-party application-rich Windows XP.
The Red Carpet
Not surprisingly, technology firms are most likely to take the lead in a Windows 7 roll-out, according to Dimensional Research. “The technology firms have always done things first,” said Diane Hagglund, senior research analyst.
Close behind in anticipated Windows 7 adoption come telecommunication firms, the March 2009, pre-release study of 1,142 IT professionals found. But moving away from firms whose very existence depends on their success — or failure — of staying current with new technologies and devices, and looking at those organizations whose very being is not dependent on developing technologies, education could lead the Windows 7 adoption fray, Dimensional Research found. Twenty percent of education organizations polled plan to upgrade to Windows 7 within its first year, the study found, compared with close to 30 percent of technology and telecom businesses.
“Educational institutions do tend to want the most up-to-date versions of software,” Hagglund said. “They tend to blur the line between corporate IT and the classroom when they’re making their technology decisions. They want the latest and greatest for their students, and that flows back into their corporate IT.”
In part, education’s willingness to adopt Windows 7 could partially be a result of the OS’ pricing — free to those with an enterprise license — and its ability to run Windows XP applications.
In Dimensional Research’s report, only 12 percent of healthcare organizations plan to move to Windows 7 within a year. But there have been significant changes in the healthcare market since the researcher conducted this study. Government regulations such as the Healthcare component of its American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, plus the Health Information in Technology for Economical and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act ), are using carrots and sticks to encourage medical organizations to invest in technology for everything from electronic medical records (EMRs) and Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE) to Health Information Exchange (HIE) and tele-medicine.
Hospitals, of course, already have vast networks and PC implementations in place, but only 8 percent to 10 percent invested in EMRs, according to one recent study. So that leaves 90 percent of hospitals scrambling to implement EMRs within the next few years. Assuming software developers are busy rewriting their applications to take advantage of Windows 7, it makes sense that hospitals could be one of the larger verticals to adopt Windows 7, at least in part.
After all, 14 percent of 2,000 corporate IT buyers in multiple vertical markets polled by ChangeWave deferred at least some PC and server purchases to wait for Windows 7.
Other markets — think assisted living and senior communities, for example — now are starting to more extensively invest in networks, PCs and laptops, immediately generating demand for today’s technology — not yesterday’s.
Likewise, the hospitality industry is revisiting technology, and could be prime real estate for Windows 7. Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, for example, has incorporated Windows 7 into its multi-billion-dollar revitalization and renovation initiative.
Now that wireless network access is no longer a differentiator, hotels are looking at other ways to boost market share using technology. And so hospitality firms are expanding online capabilities and considering other potential technological boosts to their business.
Parent company Starwood Hotels & Resorts assessed Windows 7 for corporate use, and expects to begin a complete product refresh. Customer-facing technology, such as the Windows 7-based Link@Sheraton, must reflect and enhance the hotel chain’s brand, said Mark McBeth, vice president of IT at Starwood.
Take a Tablet
Vertical markets that use tablet PCs — healthcare, real estate, retail and insurance, among others — may opt to buy Windows 7 sooner rather than later. Improved hand-writing recognition alone could drive adoption in areas such as healthcare, where safety is a key reason to buy any solution, technological or not. And Snap, a Windows 7 feature which allows a physician or billing professional to compare files side-by-side, is designed to enhance productivity and job satisfaction.
Improved battery life reduces charge-up requirements, and security improvements promise to protect data without many of the annoying, time-consuming Windows Vista loops. Finally, doctors — who must use CPOE in coming years — may be happier about the mandatory transition if touch screens eliminate or reduce the need for typing and mouse clicking.
Windows 7′s new drivers that support physical and role-based sensors such as RFID and USID may generate the business booster necessary to encourage retailers and distributors to tap the OS.
Businesses that require speed and security — and who doesn’t? — are on the Windows 7 hit-list. Depending on the value proposition, these factors could be enough to convert a prospective Windows 7 user into a real upgrade situation.
“Businesses that employ processing intensive applications such as computer aided design (CAD), that rely heavily on the operating system’s ability to deliver speed and performance, may be next at least on a selected basis,” said Info-Tech’s Conwath.
The biggest challenge to Windows 7? Older sibling Windows XP. Despite the rapid end of XP’s life, many IT executives are in no rush to pull the plug on the familiar, trusted OS.
The economy also impacts corporate future IT plans. Should the nation’s financial shape improve more rapidly than expected and business budget woes abate, then the speed of implementation could pick up, especially as IT departments’ OS site licenses and Windows 7′s small footprint avoid some — but not, of course, all — upgrade costs.
Some businesses plan a move to Windows 7 primarily because they do not want to upgrade to Windows Vista from Windows XP, found Dimensional Research. Those planning a Windows 7 shift will do so within the next 12 to 24 months, the research firm found — a conclusion with which Info-Tech’s Conwath agreed.
“Bearing in mind the pent-up demand to upgrade from Windows XP, timing of Windows XP end-of-life, Office 2010 release timing, together with corporate hardware refresh cycles, my estimate would be 2 to 2 1/2 years,” Conwath said, of mass Windows 7 adoption. “[Drivers are] pent-up demand, cool user interface, power and performance, enhanced security and manageability. Windows 7 also gets rid of many, if not all, the annoying aspects of Vista.”
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