The new Microsoft Windows 7 operating system (OS) due for launch in October, will likely change the personal computer industry forever, according to research house Frost & Sullivan.
Frost & Sullivan's vice president of IT Practice, Martin Gilliland, said that Windows 7 represents a "user-driven upgrade that breaks the link between PC OS and PC hardware upgrade cycles for the first time in the history of the PC".
"This departure from tradition may force PC vendors and components suppliers, like Intel, to think of new ways to encourage PC buyers to upgrade their hardware," he said.
In a newly-released Asia Pacific Market Insights report, Gilliland said that Windows 7 represented the first update to the PC OS that does not require more hardware resources than the version before. Windows 7 was the first PC OS to come out of Microsoft that does not require more advanced machines to run than prior versions.
"In fact, the official system requirements to run Windows 7 are slightly lower than those required to run Vista," he said. "The CPU and RAM requirements are the same but the hard disk requirements are smaller for Windows 7.
"Windows 7 will drive significant upgrade revenue for Microsoft without any hardware upgrade, thus separating Microsoft from the PC vendors in the next PC Upgrade Cycle."
Vendor consolidation accelerated
The Frost & Sullivan analyst predicts that if Microsoft continues to decouple PC OS upgrades from hardware upgrades it will accelerate the PC vendor consolidation process even more, leading to a very small number of PC vendors commanding the majority of the PC market share all over the world.
Gilliland said that Intel and Microsoft have had "a very regular cadence of major releases over the past 30 Years" and much of these independent release cycles have been very closely matched.
"While there is no suggestion of any collusion between Microsoft and Intel, it is clear that the two organisations have thrived off one another's innovations for decades. This sort of thing is to be expected in an industry where there are two virtual monopoly shareholders in two key portions of the market, OS and CPU."
He wrote that: "This change represents a major de-linking of two major players in the PC industry that could have repercussions for users and vendors alike. It won't be known until the next version of Windows is released within the next three years, as per the committed release cadence when Vista was released, if this de-coupling of the OS and hardware upgrade cycles is a one-off adjustment for the problems created by Vista."
Poor Vista performance
In the report Gilliland said that one of the biggest issues people have had with Vista has been its poor performance.
"Even users that like Vista have complained about how slow their PC's run compared to a Windows XP environment," he said.
"Microsoft went to great pains to advise consumers and businesses about the demands Vista would place on their hardware with the 'Vista Ready' campaign but the reality was that even high-end PCs continued to struggle under the load of Vista.
"Windows 7 aims to fix this problem, and it is these fixes that will change the way the PC industry flows for at least the next 1-2 years, if not forever."
Gilliland argued that, in simple terms, Windows 7 was much more efficient at using the resources available to it than Vista and as such will run much faster than Vista on exactly the same PC.
No hardware upgrade needed
"While most users had to upgrade their existing PC or buy an entirely new PC when they first bought Vista, Windows 7 users will not need to upgrade any hardware whatsoever if they have a Vista Ready PC," he said.
"More importantly, that Vista Ready PC will probably run better and faster than it does today with Vista. It is this paradigm shift that will spark one of the biggest flow-on effects of the release of Windows 7."