Microsoft Says Windows 7, Server 2008 Ready For Businesses

On Tuesday at Microsoft's "The New Efficiency" event in San Francisco, about 300 of the software giant's corporate customers gathered to watch CEO Steve Ballmer talk about the reality of today's cramped spending budgets, how IT is being forced to do more with less, and how Microsoft products can help make IT more efficient.

As fortification for this case, Microsoft also brought out executives from Intel, Starwood Hotels, Ford, and Continental Airlines to discuss their experiences with virtualization, collaboration, and productivity technologies.

Microsoft will launch Windows 7 on Oct. 22, and Intel has already rolled it out to some of its employees, said Intel CIO Diane Bryant. In fact, employees have been raving about the faster performance and application launch times of Windows 7, and demand for the new OS is so strong within Intel that the company had to expand a recent trial from 500 to 700 users, Bryant said.

Despite the "incredible boom in smartphones," the PC is still the center of most people's computing world, and Windows 7 is going to power an entire new generation of hardware, Ballmer told attendees. Windows 7 is also designed to shave IT labor costs, enabling companies to save between $90 and $160 per PC annually by reducing help desk, desktop management, deployment and provisioning tasks, he added.

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Microsoft is aware that XP is still good enough for some businesses, and that migrating costs may stall IT decision makers' upgrade plans. With that in mind, Ballmer said the burden is on Microsoft to make a clear business case for Windows 7. "At least 60 percent of the job of getting business support is Microsoft's," he said. "We have to help you make the business case."

Unsurprisingly, virtualization was also a hot topic at the event. Prior to deploying Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization hypervisor, Continental Airlines was only using about 20 percent of its server capacity, but the company has increased this figure and now expects to save about $1.5 million in power and cooling costs in 2010, said Eric Craig, Continental's managing director. "Hyper-V is a big enabler for us," he said.

Intel's Bryant said Windows Server 2008 R2 running on the Nehalem processor lets companies replace older servers and consolidate their data center infrastructure, which lowers cooling costs while bringing other associated benefits. "Once you have server virtualization, you have the benefit of dynamic allocation of applications," she said.

Social networking has moved from a consumer phenomenon to one that businesses are leveraging to increase collaboration, and Microsoft is part of this IT shift as well.

Hoyt Harper, senior vice president of brand management for Starwood Hotels, said his company has created a social networking hub and is working with Microsoft technology to allow customers to send video postcards from its hotel locations. Customers are sending around 10,000 video postcards from Starwood hotels every month, according to Hoyt.