Even as Microsoft’s marketing for Windows 7 crests, some CIOs are standing pat, mostly with Windows XP. And while some portion of those holdouts would probably make the switch to Windows 7 right now if their budgets could support it, others say they can’t yet find a reason to upgrade.
The more-cautious execs don’t want to find themselves hip deep in unanticipated Windows bugs like those that have plagued Windows Vista. Others say they’re either worried about compatibility issues, or they already know that their legacy systems don’t yet sync with Windows 7.
This aligns with a July 2009 survey by ScriptLogic Corp. in which 60% of 1,000 respondents said they would hold off on Windows 7 or skip it altogether. ScriptLogic is a service firm that companies pay to help manage their Windows-based networks.
(It’s difficult to say how accurate this and other surveys have turned out to be in terms of predicting IT decisions. Microsoft hasn’t released sales figures, preferring instead to issue broad statements like, sales are “fantastic.” Microsoft execs have also said Windows 7 sales are twice what any previous Windows release achieved immediately after introduction.)
And in a counter-intuitive twist for CIOs and Microsoft, there are those, including Forrester Research Inc. Senior Analyst Benjamin Gray, who says Windows Vista users will have an easier time upgrading to Windows 7 than anyone else. Gray has pointed out that Windows 7 is built on the same code base as Vista, which means fewer compatibility problems for Vista-ready apps and Windows 7. Although, he wrote in an April 2009 report, some “low-level” applications that play nice with Vista still will pose upgrade problems.
Which low-level apps? Client security, imaging, firewall, and networking, according to Gray.
Every CIO interviewed for this story is using Windows XP. One exec says he has put Windows Vista on a few computers for employees who need multimedia functions that Windows XP lacks. (None of the CIOs know a counterpart who has and is staying with Windows Vista as an enterprise platform.)
Microsoft’s decision to curtail support for XP doesn’t faze the CIOs because, they say, the OS is so stable and familiar. And, no doubt as a result of Vista’s headline-grabbing failure, CEOs are not buying into the Window 7 marketing blitz. They’re not asking for the business case to upgrade. Most are confident leaving the decision to upgrade with the CIO.
Steve Tomasco, director of IT at Flagship Credit Corp., says his staff is testing Windows 7. A rollout is at least six months out, though, and probably more like a year away. “I don’t think it (introducing Windows 7) is scary,” Tomasco says. It’s just not necessary right now.
“Does it give us a competitive advantage over the bank down the street?” he asks. If the answer’s not an obvious “yes,” he says, the advantage is probably incremental. And Tomasco doesn’t have the capital budget for an incremental return on investment.
He’s like many of his compatriots who feel so comfortable with Windows XP that a changeover can wait until the economy revives.
Likewise, Jay Wallis, CIO of commercial roofing company Empire Roofing, has no firm plans to migrate the company’s 50 employees.
Wallis says Empire will roll out Windows 7 cautiously, beginning the first of the year. But first, he wants to see drivers for the OS. Then, only the most technically savvy employees who need new desktops will get Windows 7.
Wallis makes it sound as though Microsoft shot itself in both feet when it comes to convincing CIOs to upgrade. It made Windows XP dependable and followed XP with a hairy proposition in the form of Vista.
Microsoft lost a lot of credibility with Vista, Wallis says. Assumptions that the benefits of a Windows upgrade will outweigh its disadvantages – however narrowly – evaporated.
Many feel that if ever there was a time to wait for Service Pack 1, this is it. In fact, a written security policy at SafeAmerica Credit Union requires that its IT director, John Gracyalny, wait for SP1 on any Windows releases.
Many important drivers are still in the works, and Wallis is not sure if Windows 7 will work with his all-important accounting software. “I’m a little distrustful of Microsoft,” he says.
It’s possible to upgrade to Windows 7 and run Windows XP-optimized apps on virtual machines, but many IT professionals see that, too, as another cost and operational question mark they’d rather avoid right now.
Some IT execs are keen to maintain a familiar desktop experience for employees, too.
“Microsoft has a great passion to change the look of things,” says Wallis. Updates to Microsoft Office can be difficult enough. “I can’t deal with everyone all at once asking what’s going on.”
Indeed, ScriptLogic’s survey of companies found that 42% of respondents said they’d delay upgrading because of the time and resources involved to do so.
Wallis guesses that it would take him two hours to fire up a new PC with Windows XP, and he’s very familiar with XP.
“So, obviously, another upgrade’s going to be a tremendous time commitment,” he says.
So happy is SafeAmerica’s Gracyalny with Windows XP that he hasn’t even asked Fiserve Inc., the third-party vendor who provides his core banking application, about its plans regarding Windows 7. SafeAmerica has $300 million in assets.
Discussing the support he gives to his company’s 65 full-time equivalents, he draws a breath and says, “Where’s the business case for going through all the money and headaches to adopt Windows 7? It doesn’t exist.”