Windows 7: an analyst case study

A couple of weeks downstream from the official launch, it’s worth taking a look at the commentary around Windows 7. Where are the insights relevant to enterprise deployment? Who’s providing good coverage?

I’m not looking at consumer-level information. Oddly enough, that actually broadens the review: counter-intuitive it may be, but of course the enterprise analysts have been working forward to the event for some time. But what’s the picture now, since Win 7 has seen the official light of day? Where might you go for ongoing advice, as you plot your strategy?

ITasITis regulars will remember I did a similar review of coverage of the Satyam debacle, earlier in the year. This time, there seems to be a lot less to review from the insight providers. News coverage of course is significant; and at the business end, Wharton Business School’s Knowledge@Wharton emphasises the commercial importance of Win7, for Microsoft, after the generally agreed lack of impact from Vista. The article gathers various opinions and research that suggests a better reception this time. But this isn’t the coverage that will be of most benefit to IT strategists.

So: where will you go for advice? Primarily, it’s the two majors: Gartner and Forrester. There’s a significant difference in approach in their mainstream research; and, also, in the flow of ongoing advice.

In official research, Gartner suggest that enterprises should plan an 18-month project to migrate to Win7. Starting now, presumably, since the research is dated 1 October. As Steve Kleynhans points out (and comment is pretty much unanimous on this) this will be the first major migration since the adoption of either Win2000 or XP in most enterprises.

More recently still, and in research available to a free account, Gartner advise that “Windows 7 is unskippable”. This paper advises that it’s “conservative” to plan to eliminate XP by mid-2012, when problems with third party applications may start to appear. So if you’re on the 18-month project, there’s time in hand – but not too much, given the annual-or-longer IT planning horizon. For other Gartner research, especially if you’re an account holder, drop onto the site and just search for “Windows 7”.

For sure, if an enterprise is intending to roll out Win7 across the organisation then the various stages of preparation, inventory, development, testing and rollout have to be gone through. So Gartner are giving thorough advice if your enterprise is still of a mind to create a corporate desktop image and roll it out everywhere.

But second, and importantly: Gartner are also blogging, though (typically) it may not be obvious. They are using Brian Gammage’s blog to capture thoughts on Win7 as the story unfolds. For ongoing insight from the majors, if you don’t have a Gartner account – or even if you do – this is the place to start. Remember, the blogs are not “published Gartner research” – they may give a different picture from the considered reports.

And a sideline. If you want to search Gartner blogs, there’s now a custom search on the InformationSpan Analyst Blogs index. Try it!

Forrester Research, in a piece published just a few days before the official launch, are much more inclined to get the train moving now and move it a bit at a time. Their advice is that enterprises “should: 1) start or accelerate application compatibility testing […]; 2) plan for rolling out […] small batches on new hardware initially; 3) weigh the costs and benefits of upgrading existing machines with at least 2 GB of memory; 4) start developing training sessions and tips and tricks guidance; and 5) prepare for — and embrace — empowered users who want to be early adopters.” Looks like they agree with Gartner about development, integration and testing but take more account of XP being long in the tooth; this advice will get experience moving.

A search on Forrester’s site reveals a steady flow of research and opinion over at least the last year, and if enterprises have been following this they should have a fair idea of what their strategy is (not “will be”) and of what they need to do to get there. Forrester do note, in a report from June, that both Vista and MacOS were picking up traction in the enterprise as XP declined.

What else is out there? Actually, not much unless you’ve got accounts with other providers; in which case you’re probably aware of it already. For serious enterprise advice about Windows 7, the two major providers appear to be the only shows in town. If you want an easy-access outside thought, though, have a look at today’s Guardian which reviews Windows 7 against the latest Ubuntu Linux and throws in a mention of MacOS Snow Leopard for good measure. OK, it’s from the personal perspective, but it’s worth remembering that Macs are variously reported as making a stealthy comeback in the enterprise.

Links:
• Opening Windows: Knowledge@Wharton, 22 Oct 2009
• Prepare for Windows 7 in Three Phases, Gartner document G00170151, 1 Oct 2009 (link is to a Google cache copy, so isn’t guaranteed; this report is not openly available on gartner.com)
• Reasons to Care About Windows 7, and Reasons Not to, Gartner document G00171872, 19 Oct 2009
• Windows 7 Commercial Adoption Outlook, Forrester, 15 Oct 2009; the report is quoted extensively in XP to lose adoption war to Windows 7, Computerworld, 20 Oct 2009
• Corporate Desktop Operating System Trends Q3 2008 To Q2 2009, Forrester, 22 Jun 2009

Other reports:
• Breaking the Windows XP Ice Pack: Can Windows 7 Turn Up the Heat on Replacements?, IDC, October 2009, primarily a market research perspective
• Windows 7 or Ubuntu 9.10: battle of the operating systes, Guardian Technology 5 Nov 2009
• Windows 7 Update Advisor, Tom Austin, Gartner Blog Network, 2 Nov 2009

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