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Windows 7 change is good for businesses but may be more bad news for Windows 8

While members of TechRepublic's CIO Jury are pleased about Microsoft's plans for Windows 7, that's largely because they remain underwhelmed by Windows 8.

Earlier this month Microsoft confirmed it will continue to allow PC makers to sell new PCs with Windows 7 Professional preinstalled beyond October 2014 - the company's original cut-off date.

Microsoft said the decision to extend was not related to the looming end-of-support date for Windows XP – or to take up of Windows 8.

The company said that because Windows 7 is the largest part of Microsoft's installed base it wants to make sure it remains easy for businesses to obtain it, and its end of support dates for Windows 7 remain the same.

And when asked "Was Microsoft right to extend the availability of Windows 7 for business customers?," TechRepublic's panel of international business decisions makers responded yes unanimously  – but their enthusiasm for Windows 7 seems to be linked to their lack of love for Windows 8.

Many tech chiefs praised the move – as Brad Novak, IT director at Goettsch Partners, noted "it allows us to keep a very stable OS a little longer", while Florentin Albu CIO at the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation ,said creating an artificial deadline to force businesses to change desktop platforms has always been met with resistance, and added "Microsoft is just anticipating the response".

Meanwhile David Wilson, IT manager at VectorCSP, said businesses need a stable, workable platform: "Windows 8 still has bugs that cost time and frustration, and the interface is still too new to force-feed to industry. Microsoft would be well-served to leave Windows 7 Professional in production and open for support for the foreseeable future."

Similarly Jeff Focke, director of IT at Electrical Distributors, said that Windows 7 is still an integral and stable platform and there is no compelling business reason to need to upgrade to Windows 8, and noted: "I would rather focus time and resources on other challenges than a Windows upgrade project."

Some took a stronger line; Ingo Dean, IT director of EastWest Institute, said "Windows 8 is not ready.  Allowing us to continue to get Windows 7 alleviates our need to seek alternatives such as MacBooks or Chromebooks."

And Gavin Whatrup, group IT director at Creston, said: "There is no, or little value to the majority of businesses in deploying Windows 8 Pro, unless they need to be seen to be using the latest technology all the time. Or unless they need to utilise some of the more advanced features of Windows Server 2012 or other server products in the same wave."

He said that while Windows 7 Pro is -  as with XP Pro before it  - a stable, known and well-supported OS with significant support systems and processes behind it, "Windows 8 is a different beast without a compelling reason, or resources, to move to it."

Microsoft's change in policy is more aimed at smaller businesses that don't have enterprise agreements, as Dale Huhtala, executive director, Enterprise Technology Infrastructure Services at Service Alberta, observed. "Most enterprises use their own images anyway so whatever the desktops/laptops come preloaded with is irrelevant. We format the drive and install our own custom image. As long as we are licensed for Windows 7 and 8, these changes have no effect on large enterprises."

John Gracyalny, VP for IT at SafeAmerica Credit Union, made a similar point: "Extending the availability of Windows 7 Pro is likely good for small businesses. I would think larger shops like mine have been running Windows 7 Enterprise under a separate licensing agreement, and will continue to do so, regardless of what version new hardware is shipped with.

Other tech chiefs made their voices heard too. Tim Stiles, CIO at the Bremerton Housing Authority, warned: "Acceptance of Windows 8 may never occur within the business community", while Brian Wells, associate CIO at Penn Medicine, said: "Many third party application vendors do not support Windows 8 or its associated browser".

Other tech chiefs reported similar impressions of Windows 8. Ian Auger, head of IT and communications at UK news company ITN, said: "I think Windows 8 is still a step too far for most businesses. Windows 8 tries to cater for both touchscreen devices and traditional desktops but still comes up short for the latter."

Matthew Oakley, group head of IT at Schroders, said "This recognises, I think, that Windows 8 is not a really a business-ready platform and perhaps sets the scene for Windows 9 to be the main business migration."

However, not all agree: Juergen Renfer, CIO at German insurance organisation at Kommunale Unfallversicherung Bayern said "Windows 8 is the better Windows 7, as far as Microsoft does accept that users want to decide the GUI-style: old style (Windows 7 style) for PCs, new style (Windows 8 style) for mobile devices, e.g. tablets and smartphones. So Microsoft could be able to offer the only OS that is able to support all kinds of devices."

This week's CIO Jury was:

  • Kevin Quealy, director of Information Services and Mapping Center, Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia
  • Joel Robertson, director of IT, King College
  • David Wilson, IT manager at VectorCSP
  • Gavin Whatrup, group IT director at Creston
  • Shawn P Beighle, CIO, International Republican Institute
  • Brad Novak, IT director, Goettsch Partners
  • Ingo Dean, IT director of EastWest Institute
  • John Gracyalny, VP for IT at SafeAmerica Credit Union
  • Michael Hanken, VP of IT for Multiquip
  • Tim Stiles, CIO, Bremerton Housing Authority
  • Florentin Albu, CIO, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations
  • Brian Wells, associate CIO, Penn Medicine
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Steve Ranger is the UK editor of TechRepublic, and has been writing about the impact of technology on people, business and culture for more than a decade. Before joining TechRepublic he was the editor of silicon.com.

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