Microsoft Exec: Partners That Migrate Customers From XP To Windows 7 Are 'Shortchanging' Customers

If you're a Microsoft partner who's recommending that customers migrate from Windows XP to Windows 7 instead of Windows 8, you're doing your customers a disservice, according to Cindy Bates, vice president of Microsoft's U.S. Small and Midsize Business (SMB) division.

"In some ways, you're shortchanging yourselves and your customers," Bates said Monday in a keynote at the XChange Solution Provider 2014 conference in Los Angeles.

While Windows 7 is a solid operating system, it's also more than four years old and lacks all the latest features and technology built into Windows 8.1. For this reason, Chris Hertz, CEO of New Signature, a Washington, D.C.-based Microsoft partner, agrees that partners should educate customers on the advantages of moving to Windows 8.1 over Windows 7.

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"When a customer chooses to purchase and install Windows 7, or simply to install Windows 7 if they have Software Assurance, they are making a choice to deploy a product that lacks the many improvements made to Windows 8 around mobility, security and manageability," Hertz said in an email.

"I can’t think of any other industry where up-front price being equal, and with the total cost of ownership favoring the newer technology, that a customer would be advised to go with a five-year-old product or solution," Hertz added.

Bates acknowledged that some Microsoft partners were "a little hesitant to move to Windows 8" because of they were unfamiliar with the Metro user interface. Microsoft has fixed this issue in Windows 8.1 by letting users work with the old Windows interface, she said.

"We listened, and now you have the ability to default to the classic desktop with buttons," Bates said.

Microsoft is cutting off support and security patches for Windows XP on April 8. For the past several years, it's been urging partners to migrate their customers from XP, which was launched in 2001. Despite these efforts, a sizable number of organizations likely will still be using XP after the support deadline.

Kent Tibbils, vice president of marketing at ASI, a Fremont, Calif.-based Microsoft system builder partner, understands where Bates is coming from but told CRN there are many business decisions for customers to consider when migrating from Windows XP.

"It’s a complex process. In some cases, clients may forego 'future-proofing' their OS with Windows 8 and go with Windows 7 instead," Tibbils said in an email. "They’re both great operating systems, and customers will be well supported by the channel as well as by Microsoft, no matter which OS they choose."

The end of XP support isn’t just a refresh opportunity for the channel, it also opens the door for partners to talk with customers about mobile devices, Bates said. Since Windows 8 is designed for both PCs and devices, Microsoft OEM partners have stepped up their game, Bates said, adding that Dell and Lenovo are notable examples.

Hewlett-Packard, on the other hand, still thinks Windows 7 has lots of life left. In January, HP began offering a $150 discount on some of its Windows 7 PCs, and advertised the deal with a banner claiming that Windows 7 PCs are "back by popular demand."