Windows 7 will be out on October 22 – are you ready?

Windows 7 will be available on October 22 and based on what I’ve read and from the direct results of our own test systems, it’s going to be a pretty good operating system – a much better version than Vista and dare I say it….. better than XP!

Looking back, why didn’t Windows Vista take the business community by storm?

• Windows Vista “real-world” hardware requirements (both memory and processor speed) were very aggressive in comparison with the benefits provided

• These hardware requirements exceeded (and would require substantial upgrades) what was currently in place at many businesses

• Initially, there was a difficulty obtaining specific hardware drivers compatible with the Operating System for devices (especially printers)

• In addition, there were application compatibility issues for certain business applications that people tried to run on Vista

• If you combine issues related to performance, application compatibility and driver compatibility – there really was not a compelling reason to move to Vista

• The User Account Control feature was very beneficial to control user’s behavior but was frustrating for many IT personnel (who wanted to turn that feature off, but would then lose the benefit of its features)

With Windows 7 close to release, industry chatter indicates it’s better than XP and Vista – why?
Windows 7 has addressed many of the issues that were experienced with Windows Vista. Overall, our experience and industry feedback with both the Beta release and the RC release have been very positive including:

• Windows 7 startup, shutdown, suspend and resume times have been drastically reduced

• Previous hardware requirements for an acceptable performance have been reduced (meaning that Windows 7 can run with acceptable performance on “lesser” hardware and will be more compatible with existing hardware without the need for substantial upgrades)

• Windows 7 is more compatible with both hardware and software (and even allows incompatible software to run in a virtual XP environment – see below)

• Windows 7 has enhanced the power management features from Windows Vista (which had improved them from XP) and also provided a battery efficiency report that details current usage of battery power by device. Much of the power management improvements were smarter usage of background management (which increases battery life by decreasing power usage of processor(s), turning off unused devices).

• Windows 7 is more secure than Windows XP (both from external attacks and configuration issues)

• The User Account Control feature has been revised to be less intrusive (fewer prompts and dialog boxes) to the end user while still providing the same level of protection.

• For a small business user, Windows 7’s simplified configuration of workgroup networking allows small businesses to increase their security controls of data without requiring much technical knowledge)

Microsoft is ending support for XP but I wonder, how many businesses relied on Microsoft for XP support, as opposed to their local IT consultants.

Due to the longevity of XP’s existence, it has been our experience that most business folks relied on their local IT consultant or internal support with regards to XP issues versus contacting Microsoft. With the ever increasing availability of blogs, wikis, knowledge bases, etc. on the internet, many issues can be resolved by searching for the appropriate issue and resolution using your internet search engine. As new issues were encountered, some businesses would rely on Microsoft for supporting those issues, but then would update their appropriate blogs, wikis, or knowledge bases with the issue and resolution making it available to the public.

What support were businesses entitled to from Microsoft when purchasing the software from a retailer?
This depends on how the Microsoft product was purchased from a retailer. If the product was purchased as part of a hardware purchase (for example, the operating system was installed on a laptop or desktop), this is considered an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) purchase and support is obtained from the OEM regarding both hardware and software issues per their hardware support contract. If the product was purchased from the retailer as “off the shelf” or a separate ‘boxed” product, the support is obtained directly from the software manufacturer per the software licensing and support agreement.

What else should folks know about Windows 7?
In addition to all the performance enhancements of Windows 7, there is one new feature that has terrific implications for business users. The XP Mode of Windows 7 allows XP supported applications to run in a native XP environment on a Windows 7 machine (transparent to the end user). This feature does have some limitations but will allow businesses to quickly adopt Windows 7 while still supporting their current applications (and migrating them to a native Windows 7 environment). Some of the limitations are:

• XP Mode requires that the machine CPU is capable of hardware virtualization using either Intel Virtualization Technology (VT) for Intel chips or AMD-V for AMD chips (can easily be verified with your hardware manufacturer for your model(s) systems.

• The XP Mode is actually utilizing Windows Virtual PC and a fully licensed XP SP3 machine (this full license is available with the following editions of Windows 7 – Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate). Therefore, the XP virtual machine is actually running inside Windows 7 (requiring more memory and processor capability).

Another benefit is businesses that have purchased Vista Business with Software Assurance will be allowed to upgrade to Windows 7 at no cost.

If you’re a staunch Window XP user, be warned of the arduous upgrade process from XP to Windows 7. Read the article from the pages of the Wall Street Journal.

Finally – Have you had an opportunity to “play with” Windows 7 Beta or RC? Share your experience(s) with us – just add your comments below.

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