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IT Has a Big Change in Attitude for Windows 7

By Stuart J. Johnston

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What a difference a year makes. In March 2009, a survey of more than 1,100 IT decision makers by market research firm Dimensional Research found that 82 percent of those surveyed planned to wait at least a year after Windows 7's release before deploying Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) replacement for Windows Vista.

Now, a year later, a new, January survey of 923 IT decision makers also conducted by Dimensional Research found that 58 percent plan to deploy Windows 7 by the end of 2010. Both surveys were commissioned by systems management appliance vendor KACE, which was acquired by Dell last month.

In the past decade, many IT shops have made a practice of waiting until the first service pack (SP) for a new version of Windows is released before planning large-scale deployments. First releases of new Windows versions were often buggier than IT administrators could tolerate, so the first SP, which was a collection of bug fixes since the OS was released, became the milestone that typically triggered enterprise adoption.

That appeared to be holding true this time last year, when the earlier survey found that only 17 percent of IT shops were planning on rolling out Windows 7 in its first year of availability. The latest survey, however, found that 46 percent of respondents are not going to wait for SP1 before deploying Windows 7, which was released to businesses last summer and had its consumer rollout on October 22. SP1 has no planned release date as yet despite rumors it will ship this year.

"We were really surprised that 46 percent plan to not wait on the service pack and go straight to Windows 7," Wynn White, Dell KACE’s vice president of marketing, told InternetNews.com.

All told, some 87 percent of respondents to the latest survey said they already have plans to deploy Windows 7. Windows Vista, by comparison, had only 47 percent of respondents saying they had "plans to deploy Vista" at a comparable point after the operating system release.

Granted, the earlier survey was taken while Windows 7 was still in early beta testing, so IT professionals at that time could only compare their experiences with Vista. However, IT shops became more bullish about Windows 7 after its corporate release. For instance, in October, investment firm Jefferies & Company issued a report that predicted that the corporate upgrade cycle was likely to kick off in mid-2010, much earlier than many observers had forecast.

"It now looks like the Windows 7 cycle is going to be bigger and quicker than most existing estimates," the Jefferies report said last fall.

That does not mean, though, that IT professionals are completely sanguine about adopting Windows 7 sooner rather than later. In last year's survey, 88 percent of the respondents were concerned about software compatibility with Windows 7. After all, some 70 percent of existing PCs today run Windows XP and applications that were developed to run under XP.

The new survey found that those concerns remain unanswered for many. Eighty six percent of respondents said software compatibility issues are still a major concern.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.