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Windows 11: Partners Expect Compatible Apps, ‘Smooth’ Transition From Windows 10

“No one’s had the ‘blue screen of death,’” says one solution provider executive, whose firm has been testing out the new operating system. Upgrading existing PCs to Windows 11 shouldn’t be nearly as risky as the previous move to Windows 10, partners told CRN. The second of a three-part series on Windows 11.

Like everyone else who follows such things, Kevin Vogl thought Windows 10 was going to be the “last version of Windows.”

“But I’m glad it’s not,” said Vogl, senior solutions architect at MessageOps, a division of Sirius based in Boca Raton, Fla. – citing the redesigned, more-modern user interface and array of new features coming with Windows 11.

The new operating system will be generally available Oct. 5 as a free download and on new PCs. Vogl, who’s been testing it out as part of Microsoft’s Windows Insider Program, said the Windows 11 updates will offer a meaningful boost to productivity and usability compared to Windows 10.

The new operating system differs from Windows 10 in another key way, too: the move to Windows 11 is not sparking the same concerns about application compatibility that plagued the move from Windows 7 to 10.

[Related: Windows 11: Partners See Complications In Rollout Amid PC Shortages]

Solution providers who spoke with CRN said that they’re viewing the upgrade to Windows 11 as only slightly more involved than moving to a new Windows 10 feature update. In other words, upgrading existing PCs to Windows 11 should not be nearly as risky as it was to upgrade Windows 7 devices to Windows 10.

“It’ll be a much smoother transition” to Windows 11 than it was to Windows 10, Vogl said.

During tryouts of Windows 11 by Vogl and other members of the MessageOps team, “it has been very stable,” he said. “No one’s had the ‘blue screen of death.’ When I tried out Windows 10 [originally], I had that quite a few times. I’m actually shocked at how well it’s worked.”

The expectation that the Windows 11 transition will not be a repeat of the messy shift to Windows 10 is especially good news right now, given ongoing PC supply constraints, solution providers told CRN. New PCs running Windows 11 may be hard to come by, at least in the short term, amid the industry-wide component shortage and supply chain disruptions.

‘Same Foundation’

In terms of compatibility, Microsoft has described Windows 11 as being “built on the same foundation as Windows 10.” The company has stated that “critical” apps will “simply work” after a device is upgraded to Windows 11.

There appears to be truth to the claims, according to solution providers and industry analysts. While the usual testing for compatibility will be necessary, the jump is not as large because the codebase for Windows 11 isn’t a huge departure from Windows 10, said J.P. Gownder, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester.

“When we moved from Windows 7 to 10, it was a very big technical upgrade. Even if you were on 8.1, there was a big technical change,” Gownder said. “The codebase of Windows 11 is very similar to Windows 10. I think of it as almost being like ‘Windows 10.1.’”

While there’s always some level of risk in moving to any new operating system, “all indications from the people that I know at Microsoft are that they’re very confident about this” from a compatibility standpoint, he said.

Larry Fulop, vice president of marketing and technology at Tempe, Ariz.-based solution provider MicroAge, said he has the same expectation.

“Windows 7 to 10 was a pretty big jump to get everything to work in the new environment,” Fulop said. But for the move to Windows 11, “we definitely have the feeling that it won’t be a hard change if you’re on Windows 10,” Fulop said.

Likewise, at Carlsbad, Calif.-based FMT Consultants, Windows 11 is not being viewed as a platform overhaul, said Zach Saltzman, senior director for the Microsoft platform at the solution provider.

While there will undoubtedly still be some issues to work through, the expectation is that “there’s not going to be a ton of bugs,” Saltzman said.

“I’m basically looking at this as like a major feature update for Windows 10,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to be that problematic.”

As trusted advisors, the opportunity for managed services providers is thus to show clients what Windows 11 really is–and isn’t–about, said Derek Nwamadi, CEO of Dallas-based Quantum Symphony.

That means helping customers to understand “that this is more of a security play and more of a user interface play – versus a whole transformation of the OS,” Nwamadi said.

‘The Latest And Greatest’

From a talent recruitment and retention perspective, there is a case to be made for upgrading to Windows 11 rather than just sticking with Windows 10, Gownder said.

Along with security and productivity enhancements, adopting a sleeker and more-current operating system like Windows 11 can help with employee satisfaction, he said.

“We’re in a very tight talent market in general for employees, and especially knowledge workers,” Gownder said. “In terms of the dimensions of Windows 11 that create less friction and are more user-friendly, that’s appealing to users.”

Matthew Bookspan, CEO of Altamonte Springs, Fla.-based Blacktip, agreed that a company’s talent goals could benefit from the move to Windows 11 and its “Apple-like” design aesthetic. “End users want the latest and greatest,” Bookspan said.

As a result of that phenomenon – and due to the low risk of compatibility issues – Blacktip is eyeing the possibility of rolling out Windows 11 to customers more quickly than past iterations of the operating system. While the solution provider has typically waited three to six months to deploy new versions of Windows in the past, “we’re taking a little more of a laissez-faire approach this time with Windows 11,” Bookspan said.

“Our philosophy now is, ‘Let people have the stuff.’ Because I can say generally that in 90 percent of cases, things work,” he said, noting that the majority of his customers’ PC fleets will support Windows 11. “I think we’ll probably make it available and let people have it if they want it.”

Complications For MSPs

While application compatibility should be less of a risk with Windows 11 than it was with the move to Windows 10, the opposite is true in terms of hardware compatibility. Microsoft has increased the hardware requirements significantly with Windows 11, particularly around the required processors.

Along with a TPM 2.0 security chip, Windows 11 also requires a CPU released in the past four years.

That is likely to increase the interest around upgrading PCs to Windows 11, instead of trying to procure new devices in a supply-constrained environment, solution providers said.

“It’s very difficult to get the exact hardware you might want,” said Bookspan, nothing that he’s seen wait times of up to nearly six months for ordering PCs with the desired specs.

However, since not all PCs in a fleet may support Windows 11 and new devices are challenging to acquire, other complexities may arise. MSPs and IT departments may find themselves having to manage both Windows 11 and Windows 10 devices for some time on behalf of customers, solution providers said.

“It’s a situation where we’re going to have to support two platforms for a single client, which we’d rather not do if possible–because of patching cycles and feature upgrade cycles,” said Marc Menzies, president and CTO of Ronkonkoma, N.Y.-based Overview Technology Solutions. “You’re going to have to support those two operating platforms instead of doing a mass lift-and-shift of everybody.”

All in all, though, solution providers are relieved to see no indications that the Windows 11 rollout will be a repeat of Windows 10.

“I don’t think that you’re going to have the same level of compatibility issues that you had moving from 7 to 10,” said James Riley, CEO of Tucson, Ariz.-based JNR Networks. “I perceive that this upgrade cycle is going to be a little more smooth.”

Still, he added: “I could be wrong.”

Check out the final part in our Windows 11 series, focusing on Microsoft’s security strategy.

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