Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Microsoft offers a Windows 7 upgrade that really isn't an upgrade

Microsoft announced that they will be offering an "upgrade" for Windows XP users, which would normally mean that the installer can skip the Vista installation, and go directly to Win7. But that entirely reasonable conclusion would be wrong. The "upgrade" will require a full installation of the new O/S, meaning that all existing data and programs on the machine would be lost. David Smith, an analyst with Gartner Inc., interpreted this announcement by saying, "They're talking about the upgrade price."

For enterprises seeking to simplify the shift from WinXP to Win7, this announcement offers no solution. In fact, if this approach stands, it will really discourage firms from converting existing PC's to Win7. Instead, they will move to the new O/S gradually, as older PC's are sent to the great motherboard in the sky.

The same can be said for the personal use market, as consumers will generally not be willing to go through all the hassles associated with backing up all of their files.... the most challenging of which will be the various programs they've bought, downloaded and installed over the years. Finding license keys, installation executables, and ensuring compatibility would likely overwhelm even sophisticated consumers, let alone the vast majority who don't really think about such things.

That's not to say that Microsoft's decision is unsound. In fact, it's probably a very wise move. That's because it means that they don't have to build and support a migration package, which would be fairly tricky given the significant differences in the systems. This will help Microsoft accelerate the general release of the product, something they seem to be doing given their recent decision to move directly from a single beta release to a release candidate. Furthermore, in the words of Michael Gartenberg,vice president of mobile strategy with JupiterMedia, "For most end users, it will probably mean that they end up with a more reliable installation."

So in the short term, it means that Microsoft will have to wait for widespread adoption. In the long run, it means that new PC's will have Win7 pre-loaded sooner rather than later, which means that Microsoft will be able to put the Vista debacle behind them sooner, rather than later.

Microsoft Corporation: MSFT (NASDAQ)

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