The success of Microsoft's Windows 7 beta test phase has organizations that have been locked in a Windows XP 'holding pattern' looking to jump directly from XP to Windows 7. And now that Microsoft has said it will allow XP customers to buy Windows 7 upgrade media and upgrade licenses, that path is about to get pretty crowded.
But the direct XP-to-Windows 7 upgrade scenario is one that Microsoft probably wanted to avoid. When Microsoft began talking about Windows 7 last year, the software giant said companies that chose to skip Vista entirely would still face migration issues when they moved Windows 7.
Last June, Microsoft discussed the technical issues around XP-to-Windows 7 migrations in a white paper titled "The Business Value Of Windows Vista."
"Customers who are still using Windows XP when Windows 7 releases will have a similar application compatibility experience moving to Windows 7 as exists moving to Windows Vista from Windows XP," Microsoft warned in the white paper.
Microsoft feels that Vista was unfairly tarnished by early adopters, and that this led to an irreversible sullying of Vista's reputation in the market. With Windows 7, Microsoft isn't taking any chances, and has maintained a running dialog with customers and partners aimed at nipping any negativity in the bud.
"There is certainly a lot being done so that Windows 7 doesn't get blamed. That means better communication," said Lee Nicholls, global solutions director for Microsoft technologies at Getronics, a global Microsoft Gold partner.
"But the pain of migration still comes down to the way you do it. If you plan properly, and take the right steps, including application sequencing and compatibility checks, you can still expect a smooth migration," Nicholls added.
Solution providers whose XP-based clients have been waiting on the sidelines are expecting a flood of business to accompany Windows 7's release, much of it centered around providing change management assistance and technical support to end users in companies that make the XP-to-Windows 7 leap.
"It really appears that the same kind of support issues involved in an XP-to-Vista transition will crop up in an XP-to-Windows 7 transition," said Travis Fisher, executive vice president at solution provider Inacom Information Systems.
Some Microsoft channel partners see similarities between the current situation and past Windows releases. For example, the migration from Windows 98 to Windows 2000 was painful for many organizations, and stemmed from security model changes in Windows 2000 that led to application compatibility issues, said Matt Scherocman, vice president of consulting services for PCMS IT Advisor Group.
In contrast, the upgrade from Windows 2000 to XP was relatively easy, according to Scherocman. "XP was all about the bug fixes and enhancements, and I view Windows 7 the same way. It's not the massive shift that Microsoft made to Vista when they added functionality like User Account Control."