Microsoft will make its long-awaited Windows 7 operating system available to the general public on October 22. But unlike its disappointing and unstable predecessor, Windows Vista, the new software platform is being received with open arms by the channel and customer community.
The new OS will be available in two primary versions – Home Premium for consumers and Windows 7 Professional for corporates – but six editions all up including Starter, Enterprise and Ultimate. Highlight features of the 64-bit platform include Windows touchscreen functionality, a customisable user interface, new Windows taskbar and federated search capabilities, DirectAccess for VPN connectivity, improved BitLocker security for PCs, applications and fl ash drives, and optimised virtual desktop features. It can also run older XP applications on the Windows 7 desktop.
Windows 7 is already being heralded for its stability, as well as ability to run off existing hardware systems. Managing director at systems integrator Regal IT, Mark Gluckman, said most customers were already trialling the new operating system. He was yet to hear any negative feedback and predicted the ability to upload Windows 7 on current PCs would be a major driver for fast customer take-up. The Microsoft Gold partner operates in the mid-market.
“All our customers avoided Vista because it has been such a nightmare,” Gluckman said. For Regal, key features included Microsoft’s updated management tools such as SystemsCentre technology with configuration and operations manager, and the new rewrite of Systems Management Server (SMS).
On an individual note, Gluckman said the dynamic user interface was a major selling point.
“The best indication for me personally, is that my kids have stopped asking me for an Apple Mac,” he said.
Director at Melbourne-based Jasco Consulting, Jason McClintock, agreed there was a lot of interest in Windows 7 across his enterprise customer base, particularly with those also looking to upgrade to Windows Server 2008 Service Pack 2, which was released in May.
Jasco has been trialling the beta and release candidate for several months and found the stability and performance of Windows 7 impressive, he said.
“There are a lot of complementary features between the two – DirectAccess, and security with BitLocker for example, which are being focused on,” McClintock said. “From an enterprise point of view, we needed to see value from day one, not just an upgrade, and I think there is some very nice enterprise functionality that people will jump on.”
McClintock pointed out some cost benefits attached to upgrading to Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 SP2, such as the VPN capability allowing laptops and servers to talk to one another without third-party add-ons. This should help sell the software platforms to customers still being driven by cost considerations, he said.
But more significant was the productivity and functionality improvements for businesses from both platforms, he claimed. Nevertheless, McClintock wasn’t expecting a significant hike in hardware sales above standard refresh cycles.
Retailers have also been gearing up in anticipation of a big Windows 7 launch. Harvey Norman general manager for computers and communications, Luke Naish, said its pre-sales campaign over the past 30 days was led with interactive demonstration units.
“People are relating well to it, and it has been boosted with a positive response to the beta in online reviews – which is different to what happened with Vista,” Naish said. “The majority of our customers are SMBs and consumers. The big thing with Windows 7 is the amount of customisation in form factor available to them.
“The three-user skew approach Microsoft is taking with licensing should also help, as households often have more than one computer now.” Harvey Norman will be opening its Sydney and Melbourne stores at midnight on October 22 to accommodate the large number of customers anticipated.
However, Calvert technologies managing director, Dean Calvert, was less optimistic about the impact of Windows 7 on his business.
“There has been some interest from clients, and the ones who held out on Vista are looking forward to the release, but the operating system in itself is less interesting than what it can do,” Calvert said.
“The problem is in vendor support of applications for Windows 7. Not all applications have been tested yet – for instance, a legal client of ours is running a key application that, when we asked the vendor, hasn’t been tested against Windows 7.
“Because that vendor is waiting for the official release, we’re stuck on whether to perform a Vista or Windows 7 rollout.”
Multinational PC vendors have also jumped on the bandwagon in the lead-up to the official Windows 7 release and paraded a range of new products.
In a Sydney launch last week, HP announced several new desktop and notebook models based on Windows 7. Rival, Acer, will also begin selling new Aspire One netbooks based on the operating system from this week.