XP Out, Windows 7 In By 2012: Forrester

With driver issues and all-around bad press about Vista, the assumption is that most businesses opted to stick with XP. In fact, Forrester's research does back up that assumption: 75 percent of SMB computers are still running XP. The hesitancy for corporate IT to roll out the latest OS is, of course, steeped in fear of a new set of technical headaches. Also, it's not surprising that many WinTel outfits are gun-shy after witnessing or experiencing the problems of Vista.

Still, Forrester makes some sound technical arguments in favor of not putting off an upgrade to Windows 7. Forrester's suggested migration deadline of 2012 still gives businesses a 12-to-18-month testing period. This gives sufficient time to upgrade outdated equipment, or perform upgrades on newer equipment. For example, for upgrading memory, Windows 7 seems to run happiest on at least 2 GB, and in performance benchmarks reviewers have done in the CRN Test Center, it screams with 4 GB.

This time frame also allows IT to catch any unforeseeable "gotchas" in migrating to Windows 7. Take, for instance, the problem Test Center reviewers found of not being able to run XP Mode on a machine that had a virtualization-capable processor -- a processor that was confirmed compatible as per Microsoft's suggested processor compatibility tool. You can read about the problem we discovered,here. A setback like this could cost an IT department dearly in time and resources, especially organizations that need XP Mode to run legacy applications.

Forrester also makes the case about the real possibility of discontinued application support for XP. It is quite feasible that as Windows 7 starts to take hold in the corporate and consumer markets, software vendors, driver developers and ISVs are not going to invest in development as much for XP support.

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Then, there is also the issue of Microsoft's own termination of XP support. As Forrester outlines, the extended support phase for XP will be from July 2010 to April 2014. What do users get with Extended Support? Paid-per-incident or per-hour support calls, security updates, access to the Microsoft Knowledge Base and access to Microsoft Help online. No hot fixes will be offered unless users purchase an extended hot-fix agreement within 90 days of so-called mainstream support ending. By the way, mainstream support for XP Professional ended in April of this year.

Yes, there are instances where certain industries and some Microsoft partners will be able to get and offer support beyond the extended support period. Yet, is it really worth business IT to even investigate those options at this point? Unless there are some extremely dire circumstances that call for XP to remain the standard in an organization, the answer is most probably, no.

Of course, Forrester also recommended that IT shops upgrade from XP to Vista and then migrate to Windows 7. That suggestion has been met with a loud and collective no from the IT professional community. Only 7 percent of those polled by Forrester's have plans to do the XP to Vista to Windows 7 shuffle.