Report: Windows 7 Meets Business Needs

Microsoft got it right with Windows 7, according to Michael Cherry, vice president of research on operating systems for Directions on Microsoft.

Cherry, along with colleagues Paul DeGroot and Matt Rosoff, have produced a research report aimed at helping senior IT decision makers evaluate Microsoft's latest client operating system. The 40-page report, "Windows 7: An OS for Business," will be available next month.

"It was really important for this version of Windows to overcome the barriers put up by Vista, and I think they successfully accomplished that," said Cherry in a telephone interview.

Those barriers, according to the report, include poor application compatibility, poor device driver support, and of course, the infamous user account control (UAC) security feature, among others.

Two years after Vista was released, more than 70 percent of business computers were still running XP, according Forrester Research.

Windows 7 is a somewhat slimmed-down "interim" OS release, according to Cherry. Like Vista, Windows 7 shares the same code base for server and client, allowing simplified testing for Microsoft and much-improved maintenance for customers. A single service pack can be used to update both server and client.

While the core components of Vista and Windows 7 are the same, the improved performance of the new OS may alter perceptions that had turned negative with Vista, according to the report.

"I think the biggest surprise for me was when I saw a Microsoft executive hold up a netbook at a recent conference saying that it was running Windows 7," said Cherry. "There is no way you could run Vista on a box like that."

Changes made with Windows 7 include improved driver support, a streamlined UAC, an updated Service Control Manager, a new power management system and a simplified BitLocker, according to the report (see Table).

Removing Windows Barriers
By Michael Cherry, Research Vice President, Directions On Microsoft

This chart lists some common perceptions that stopped organizations from deploying Windows Vista and shows how each perceived barrier has been addressed in Windows 7.
Barrier to Windows Vista Windows 7 Improvement
Poor application compatibility Most applications that work with Vista will work with Windows 7, and most software vendors have updated their applications.
Poor device driver support Most hardware manufacturers and developers have updated their products' device drivers for Vista SP2 and Windows 7.
User Account Control (UAC) too obtrusive Most applications have been updated to work correctly with UAC, and UAC has been improved to lessen the number of user interruptions.
Windows is too bloated Entry-level applications, such as Windows Mail, have been removed so that users need only download the Windows Live counterparts they want.
Windows starts too slowly The Service Control Manager has been updated to allow certain events, such as joining an Active Directory domain, to start a service, rather than having to start all services at system startup.
Using BitLocker to encrypt hard drives is too complicated Initial installation and configuration of BitLocker has been simplified, and in most cases the necessary partitioning will be handled automatically.
BitLocker only works with internal storage drives BitLocker To Go, a new feature of Windows 7, will extend BitLocker protection to removal drives.
No features for businesses DirectAccess, BranchCache, and Virtual PC with Windows XP mode address business needs for better connections for remote workers, improved use of bandwidth, and line-of-business application compatibility.
Windows power management is too flaky—systems don't restore correctly from sleep or hibernation Power management has been improved to reduce power consumption when the computer is not in use as well as when it is running.
Excerpt from the Research Report entitled: Windows 7: An OS for Business, September 2009, by independent analyst firm Directions On Microsoft,

Microsoft worked to keep its partners in the loop on Windows 7. Hardware manufacturers, OEMs and developers were engaged early in the process, the report noted. When Vista was released in 2006, it did have features important to business, such as security and networking improvements. However, it suffered from too many application and driver compatibility problems. Hardware manufacturers were not up to speed on the resources required to run Vista.

Many of the application and driver capability issues have since been resolved, according to the report. Cherry and his colleagues see the migration to Windows 7 as fairly painless, especially for those who have been working with Vista.

For those migrating to Windows 7, "pre-Vista" machines likely will need to be replaced, the report noted. Windows XP-era applications will need to be updated. Alternatively, IT pros can deploy desktop virtualization solutions and Windows XP Mode.

Developers would be wise to examine Windows 7's UI changes, such as Jump Start and the Task Bar, so they can leverage their apps to the new look and features, Cherry said. They should also look at enabling PowerShell features for troubleshooting their applications.

IT pros should consider using PowerShell for improved remote administration capabilities, according to Cherry. He recommends using the Windows Automatic Installation Kit to standardize images for installation.

"I don't think people using XP will find the changes so substantial that they will not be able to upgrade to Window 7," said Cherry. "Yes, there are a lot of changes [from XP], but at the end of the day, I think most will adapt without much difficulty."

In addition to highlighting the features and benefits most likely to interest business, the report provides information on acquiring and licensing Windows 7.

About the Author

Herb Torrens is an award-winning freelance writer based in Southern California. He managed the MCSP program for a leading computer telephony integrator for more than five years and has worked with numerous solution providers including HP/Compaq, Nortel, and Microsoft in all forms of media.


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