This time, it seems, Microsoft is getting it right. The launch of Windows 7 has been widely seen as a success with the software topping best seller charts and a host of positive comments.
But, haven't we been here before? Cast your mind to nearly three years. Vista was hyped as Microsoft's biggest ever launch - costing around about $10 billion for the worldwide with Microsoft spokespeople confidently talking about widespread adoption of Vista by all parts of the user world - enterprises and consumers - within a couple of years; there was even speculation that Vista would be the last of the major Microsoft operating systems.
We all know what happened next. Vista tanked like a major operating system from a major vendor had never tanked before. It arrived with all the razzamatazz of Luiz Filipe Scolari arriving at Stamford Bridge and has reached the same levels of success.
Three years down the line, we've come full circle. it's another operating system launch. Are we seeing the same mistakes being repeated? Certainly on the surface things are looking better - the operating system has garnered a cluster of decent reviews but then reviewers had been quick to praise Vista too. The only real success is going to be when it delivers the customers and right now, the signs are much encouraging for Microsoft.
If anyone is truly in touch with what's happening with the software, it's the sales channel, these are the guys who are responsible for gauging demand, fulfilling orders and manage customer expectations - ad the signs are looking good for Microsoft.. It doesn't matter whether it's a distributor, a corporate reseller or a small retailer speaking there's complete agreement that Microsoft has learned its lessons this time.
"There's been a lot of enthusiasm, particularly from computer stores," said James Reed, general manager of the software business unit at distributor Computer 2000. "In fact, I'd say demand exceeds supply - a complete reverse of the situation with Vista, where there was little demand."
Computer 2000 has attempted to cash in on the interest by introducing a number of promotions tied in to the PC vendors. "That's another difference," said Mark Glasspool, Computer 2000's general manager of the PC systems business unit , "the major brands have got really behind Windows 7. Microsoft has learned its lesson for Vista and has worked with the vendors - and got plenty of stock out in time."
But it's not just retailers who are enthusiastic about the launch. Corporate services company Computacenter is also experiencing a huge amount of interest. "We've had more interest in Windows 7 even before it's been released than we have had in Vista in the last three years," said Andy Goddard, practice leader, workplace & collaboration at Computacenter. "The customers are really enthusiastic,"
The company is already engaged in rolling out two major contracts even before the product has been officially launched. "One is a big public sector organisation and the other is a high street brand where we're going to roll out Windows 7 to 4,500 users," said Goddard, adding that Computacenter was an early adopter too with both the UK and Germany offices involved in large scale migration projects.
What's the interest this time and why is this different from the Vista experience? Some of it is down to the product itself and some of it is down to the age of XP - which has become the de facto enterprise standard. Mark Wilson, who works for a large IT services company and is a Microsoft blogger thinks that it's both. "There are enterprises who are looking at the cost of XP support in 12 to 18 months time, I think that a lot of companies will move before then. " But it's not just about the lack of XP support in the future, "there are features about Windows 7 that users are interested in," said Wilson. "For example, there's interest in Direct Access as a way of removing expensive VPN infrastructure."
Then there's the performance issue. "Windows 7 has faster boot-up. This was a real problem for Vista, users didn't want to wait the four or five minutes it took Vista to boot and from an IT services point of view, it wasn't an easy product to support," said Computacenter's Goddard. He added that another bugbear that users had also been tackled by Microsoft. "UAC has been improved; it's not perfect, there still problems to be face but the channel will be able to help with those," he said.
There are some enterprises that are interested in going down the Windows 7 path but are looking to hedge their bets. "We've had a lot of interest from users who are interested in going down the XP Compatibility mode," said Wilson.
But there was talk of big contract wins at the time of the Vista launch and there was certainly plenty of interest - but it didn't translate into sales. Microsoft has one thing on its side: most organisations, on a three to five year recycle programme, will be very reluctant to stick with Windows XP for another two or three years. Given that Vista has only penetrated about five to 15 percent of the enterprise workspace, there is plenty of room for the operating system to grow. And if the channel is this enthusiastic, you can bet this won't be another Vista.
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