Microsoft Partners Expect Windows 7 Services Bonanza6:23 PM EST Tue. Jul. 07, 2009
The IT industry already knows what Windows 7 will cost and the various flavors Microsoft plans to dish up. All that's left is for Microsoft to release Windows 7 to manufacturing, and several sources are predicting that will happen July 13, the opening day of Microsoft's annual Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans.
For Microsoft partners, Windows 7's arrival couldn't come soon enough. Even fervent Microsoft Kool-Aid drinkers admit that Windows Vista was a disaster, and the result has been a surprisingly large swath of customers that are still using Windows XP, a wobbly geezer of an OS that's nearly eight years old and is increasingly ill-equipped for the challenges of modern computing.
All of this pent-up demand for Windows 7 represents a lucrative opportunity for Microsoft channel partners that have experience in handling OS migrations. And the fact that Windows 7 development has been a breeze compared to Vista has convinced many partners that Microsoft has learned from its Vista mistakes.
"Windows 7 will help everyone put Vista -- and XP -- behind them," said Andrew Brust, chief of new technology at New York-based IT consultancy twentysix New York. "Windows 7 is a great operating system, but more importantly, the Windows 7 team is well-run and dedicated to stability, compatibility and organization. That's a marked departure from what I observed of the Vista team."
Windows 7 is designed to work on multiple PC form factors, including netbooks, and Microsoft has expended considerable effort on getting third-party device vendors involved at an early stage in order to ensure compatibility with Windows 7. That's a contrast to Vista's hefty hardware requirements and spotty device support, which helped to cement its reputation in the channel as a bloated OS that only ran as advertised on higher end hardware.
"This is the first time in Microsoft history that customers can upgrade confidently to a new version of Windows on existing PC hardware," said Allison Watson, vice president of worldwide channels at Microsoft, in a recent interview.
Vista's well-publicized delays and compatibility problems were the result of Microsoft's adding and changing many features in the course of development. With Windows 7, Microsoft's goal was to keep the scope of the operating system within reason and not get carried away with excessive alterations and additions.
With Windows 7, "We wanted to make sure that our eyes were aligned with our stomach," Mike Nash, corporate vice president of Windows product management, told Channelweb.com in April.
Next: The Coming Windows 7 Migration Services Wave
But while Windows 7 is a vast improvement over Vista, companies are still going to require guidance around Windows 7 deployment, and that's particularly true for organizations that have remained in an XP holding pattern and skipped Vista.
Dave Sobel, CEO of Evolve Technologies, a Fairfax, Va.-based Microsoft Gold Partner, expects a coming surge in assessment services stemming from Windows 7's release.
"Companies will need to figure out how they'll benefit from Windows 7 and whether they're capable of running it. Then there's an analysis process to determine whether their applications will support it," said Sobel.
These services begin with a review of the customer's existing infrastructure, hardware, software and deployment architecture, followed by a much deeper evaluation in which the VAR provides the customer with detailed information on total cost of ownership for Windows 7, Sobel added.
Windows 7 also creates services opportunities that haven't existed with past Windows releases.
Tim Huckaby, CEO of InterKnowlogy, a Microsoft Gold partner in Carlsbad, Calif., expects to see high-end strategy services resulting from Windows Presentation Foundation and .Net Framework 4.0, both of which are supported in Windows 7. These key technologies weren't part of XP and open up a wealth of new opportunities.
"We haven't been able to do much with touch-based computing and WPF because companies that use XP desktops don't have .Net framework installed at the client," Huckaby said. "We've been limited to ASP.net, but WPF offers a much richer and easier way of building applications."
Microsoft is set to embark on what company executives are calling the biggest launch wave in company history, with new versions of Windows Server 2008, Windows Mobile, SharePoint, Exchange and SQL Server all due by March 2010. While all are important, none will be as closely watched as Windows 7, which some partners see as an opportunity for Microsoft to scrub away the bad memories of Vista.
"A successful Windows 7 will help reaffirm confidence in Microsoft's product release strategy," said Matt Scherocman, vice president of consulting services for Cincinnati-based PCMS IT Advisor Group. "The perceived product-quality issues with Vista have really slowed down licensing, and those perceptions have been a big issue for Microsoft."