Operating systems

Plan to skip Windows 8? Get your Windows 7 exit strategy ready now

Organisations should be planning what their next OS should be after Windows 7 - and in many cases they may want to bypass Windows 8.

Companies should start planning their upgrade from Windows 7 now - and perhaps also how to give Windows 8 a miss.

It may be six years before Windows 7 support is withdrawn but firms had longer to prepare for the end of XP support and nearly a quarter of PCs in organisations were still running the venerable OS after support ended, said Stephen Kleynhans, research vice president at Gartner.

"The end of support for Windows 7 will be January, 2020, assuming there are no changes to its current support life cycle. While this feels like it's a long way off, organisations must start planning now, so they can prevent a recurrence of what happened with Windows XP," said Kleynhans.

But rather than switching PCs and tablets to Windows 8, Kleyhans said most organisations will likely skip Microsoft's current desktop OS and move straight to its successor, currently codenamed Windows Threshold. The gap between Threshold's estimated shipping date and the end of Windows 7 support is roughly the same as between Windows 7 release and XP's support ending.

Windows 8 Start screen
Windows 8 Start screen

Even where firms do choose to deploy to Windows 8, Gartner sees 'little value' in moving all PCs and compatible devices to the latest Microsoft OS and 'do not recommend it without a solid business case'.

Instead Gartner expects, of the firms moving to Windows 8, most will deploy the OS on new PCs and phase out Windows 7 over time.

For those making the switch to Windows 8, Kleynhans predicts the usual software upgrade complications - such as ensuring application compatibility, and recommends consulting with application software providers to ensure support.

However, beyond compatibility issues, which he doesn't expect to be a problem for the majority of software on Windows 7, Kleynhans said many organisations, "especially those in industries with government oversight or compliance requirements, require applications to be officially supported by the independent software vendor (ISV) and/or go through validation processes to ensure compatibility.

"Such organisations may find skipping Windows 8 for most devices makes sense," he said.

Few of TechRepublic's CIO Jury had plans to move to Windows 8 when polled earlier in the year.

Reasons given for steering clear included "the interface being too new to force feed to industry" and a desire to "focus time and resources on other challenges than a Windows upgrade project", together with a willingness to stick with Windows 7 as a "stable platform".

Sales of Windows 8 licences are lagging behind that of 7, with just over 200 million Windows 8 licences sold in about 15 months, compared to 240 million licences in the first year of Windows 7's release.

Microsoft has been tweaking the Windows to address these user complaints. The recent Windows 8.1 Update made the UI simpler to use with a mouse and keyboard, made devices running the OS easier to control using mobile device management and allowed the latest version of Internet Explorer to run web apps and sites designed for earlier versions, as well as providing the option to boot to the desktop rather than the tiled Start screen.

It's not all doom and gloom for Windows 8. J. P. Gownder, Forrester principal analyst said IT pros like the idea of using a tablet on the move and docked with a keyboard and screen - the model that Windows 8 was designed to support.

Windows 8.1 Update, with its mouse- and keyboard-friendly improvements, is well suited for these two-in-one scenarios," he wrote in the report Windows 8.1 Improves its Case for Enterprise Usage.

But while Windows 8 could help workers rely on a single device, Gowner also expects that Windows 7 will "remain the enterprise standard for years to come" and that "Windows 8.1 devices will be situationally deployed".

Gownder identifies multiple reasons for firms skipping Windows 8-powered dockable tablets, such as the Microsoft Surface, such as companies choosing to use smaller, more mobile tablets alongside, rather than instead of, PCs and certain management features enabled by Windows 8.1 only being realised when also running System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager.

By the time broad rollouts of Windows 8.1 start happening in enterprise Kleynhans expects that Windows 8.1 Update 2 will be on the market, which he says will be a likely choice for production deployment for those choosing the OS.

About

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

12 comments
James Stevenson
James Stevenson

The only people who seem to complain about Windows 8.1 are those who haven't used it. I used Windows 8.1 on my desktop and I even have a Windows 8.1 tablet. If I'm going to be brutally honest, it's the best Windows OS I've ever used. It loads up faster than windows 7, it's much nicer looking and it is a lot easier to use. The only thing they changed is "start". It's no longer a menu, but instead a screen. 


I'm not a Microsoft fanboy - I erased Windows 7 off my laptop and stuck Linux on it (Xubuntu) because I prefer it and it does everything I need an OS to do and then some. My only complaint about Windows 8.1 is that it isn't as good on a desktop or a laptop as it is on a tablet, but it's not a major game changer. It's still very powerful and I have very few problems with it (Far less than I do with Linux). Trust me, it isn't as bad as everyone makes out.

Gisabun
Gisabun

First, Nick failed for the same rumors as everyone else - there is no Windows 8.1 Update 2 [why do you think "Update" wasn't called "Update 1".

As for Windows 8.1, it is easier to use than Windows 8. You can tweak it enough to be useful. I wouldn't be upset if I was given a Windows 8.1 laptop.

Upgrading Win 8 to Win 8.1 - on the other hand - is one complete utter mess.

willem
willem

Well, I upgraded from Windows 7Pro to Windows8.1 Pro and I am telling you, stop nagging how awful Windows 8 is, When you still uses Windows7. Windows8 is a brilliant OS. I installed it at many of my clients and they all say, if you get used to the interface, they all love it. 

Go with the new and explore the new, than rather sit back stay behind. We are moving into an new era of Computing, and if you snooze you will loose.

Great product Microsoft, well done.

pbug56
pbug56

I wonder how many people bought licenses and upon discovering how awful the Win Ape GUI never used them.  Or bought PC's that came with Win Ape and upgraded to Win 7.  Businesses especially.  I'm guessing the numbers of actual Win Ape users are lower then sales numbers.

Metro Critic
Metro Critic

Gonna skip Windows 9 too if it's not as good as Windows 7. AND will have ALL of my business and consumer clients stick with Windows 7 if/until Microsoft comes up with something that works better and is more productive for their needs than Windows 7.

mail
mail

I have been a 'softee' ever since Windows 386 but I have to say I don't share the optimism in this article. I believe Windows hit its peak with XP and has plateaued with Windows 7.
Windows is still just an 'also ran' in the tablet and phone markets. A declining desktop and laptop market is being nibbled away by Apple, Linux, the aforementioned tablets and maybe even Chrome OS.
I'm afraid that by 2020 Windows will be more of a legacy product rather than something that everyone uses. Microsoft will probably survive but I don't think Windows will.

LordTye
LordTye

In the same way windows phones, with tiles, can't get a decent percentage of the phone market. Windows 8.x will continue to be despised and unwanted just like, in order: Windows 95 vs. 1 & 2, Windows Millennium and Window Vista!!

As long as Windows 9 works and acts like an upgraded Windows 7/XP Pro computer people will buy and love it!! Otherwise the errors of Windows 8 tiles & the other mistakes in design listed above will make most of us wait till Windows 10!!!

gman3025
gman3025

The windows  "number of licenses sold" is always a misleading. Back when Microsoft was trying to get people on windows 7, they were selling a system with windows 7 license and a "free downgrade to windows xp" . Their numbers reflected a new windows 7 sale even though the windows 7 license might not be active. 


I have a feeling Microsoft is playing with windows 8 numbers the same way. 

cybershooters
cybershooters

It's not actually all that awful since Update 1 came out, you just use GPOs to force it to app view on the start menu so when they click on start it shows the old Windows applications.  Plus you can turn off a lot of the pop-up stuff with GPOs, but not unfortunately the edge UI, although you can make it less likely to show.  My main problems have been removing the packaged (i.e. Windows 8.1) apps from the Start Screen that most users on a corporate network would never need or use.  With DISM you can remove them from the WIM image, but with OEM machines that are pre-installed, I have to use a powershell script that runs when each user logs on (which is not as easy as it sounds because first they have to have permission to run a script).  Also the colour scheme is hopeless with pre-Windows 8 applications and although it can be changed easily by the user, defaulting it to a custom theme also seems to be impossible, the GPO doesn't work properly.


So I agree you will only use Windows 8.1 in limited circumstances.  I do think it is a significant improvement over Windows 7 but everyone thinks it is awful because the UI is so bad.  The average user doesn't use things like WMF 4.0 or Server Manager.  And they haven't got a clue what synchronous GPO processing is or datadeduplication.
ITOdeed
ITOdeed

Some of Microsoft's OS upgrades are needed, while others reek of sheer stupidity.

Gisabun
Gisabun

@Metro Critic  So if you skip Win9, that will give you about 8 months to "upgrade" from Win7 to Win10 before Win7 goes unsupported. And upgrade would actually mean wiping your hard disk as you would need to do a fresh install.

Gisabun
Gisabun

@gman3025  Actually, you paid for the Win 7 license and that's what counts. Those numbers are the number of licenses PURCHASED - not in use. Companies buy a few hundred to thousands of licenses but not all of them are used right away.

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