Microsoft rallies businesses to start Win 7 migrations now

The company encourages business customers to move even before the OS is available worldwide Oct. 23

In a last promotional run-up to the Windows 7 release next month, Microsoft is urging business customers to start their upgrades now with examples of customers already using the software, and another acknowledgement that the company learned lessons from how it handled Vista's release three years ago.

Microsoft has devoted an unprecedented level of time and attention to making sure business customers will have a smooth migration and reap financial benefits from the new OS, said Microsoft Senior Director of Product Management Gavriella Schuster, in what is likely to be the last of a series of interviews with reporters as the company prepares to release Windows 7 worldwide on Oct. 23.

"The real difference that I think people are seeing with Windows 7 is a different level of quality," Schuster said. "We've never reached this level of quality before in terms of performance, reliability, ease of deployment, the tools around it."

As she has in previous interviews, Schuster reiterated Microsoft's mea culpa about how the company handled preparing its business customers, ISVs (independent software vendors) and other partners for the release of Vista, which was made available to them in November 2006.

At the time, drivers for key hardware and peripherals were not available, and major applications were not compatible. Additionally, many customers, as has been typical with a major Windows release, opted to wait for the release of the first service pack for Vista to even consider upgrading, and then many others did not move to the OS at all.

Schuster assured customers that moving to Windows 7 will be a far smoother process and will set a precedent for how the company will handle desktop OS releases in the future. In fact, with a release-to-manufacturing version of Windows 7 already in the hands of many business customers, they can begin to move to the OS now.

"In the past customers have had to wait for ISV support, they've needed to wait for a service pack release [to deploy Windows]," she said.

"Shame on us, we've learned our lesson. We have put a lot of effort in really resolving the customer friction point before we come to them [with the OS]. We are being much more proactive and we're saying to customers, 'You don't have to wait.'"

Microsoft introduced case studies Monday showing that some customers have taken this advice -- among them, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, the city of Miami and Dutch IT services firm Getronics -- and are reporting cost-saving benefits because of this decision, Schuster said.

Microsoft has a lot riding on Windows 7 after the overall disappointment of Windows Vista and is hoping the OS will jump-start business spending on desktop software.

Many companies put a freeze on IT spending in general in the past year during the recession, and while conditions have improved, companies remain cautious about where they put their money.

But analysts have said that many companies still using Windows XP don't really have a choice when it comes to migrating to Windows 7 -- the question is more of when they will move than if they will.

Overall, customers who have moved already are saving on the time of IT labor devoted to PC management in the range of US$89-$160 per year because of new features in Windows 7, according to the findings of case studies Microsoft released Monday.

In particular, the city of Miami said it would save $54 per PC per year on power management because of new features in Windows 7 for setting group policies.

The OS allows administrators to set policies across multiple desktops for updating software and other features through back-end connections to Microsoft server software that manage these processes, Schuster said.

Microsoft also has changed its plans for a software package that helps customers deploy Windows across multiple desktops, she said. Microsoft plans to release Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) 2009 R2 in late October 2009, adding Windows 7 support for all components of the suite except for Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V).

That support will come in the first quarter of 2010 with MED-V 1.1 Service Pack 1, Schuster said.

Originally, Microsoft had planned to release a beta of MED-V 2 sometime in the first quarter of 2010, but decided to add Windows 7 support earlier due to customer demand for it, she said.

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