Windows 7 Migration Strategy and The Death of Windows XP

Microsoft recently has announced that Windows 7 code has been finalized. The so-called, Release to Manufacturing, or RTM version of Windows 7 will be officially available to computer makers, TechNet subscribers and other partners on August 6th with a retail release date of October 22nd. This is big news, but those aren’t the only important dates to be aware of.

Microsoft also released Windows Server 2008 R2 to manufacturing on July 22nd. It will be available to the public on, not coincidentally, October 22nd.

Microsoft is already touting the big strides it has made in making mass deployment and software migration that began with Vista and have continued to improve with Server 2008, and the upcoming Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010 now in beta.

When Microsoft released Windows Vista, it expected that, as it always had in the past, the world would slowly work its way over to the new operating system. It’s predecessor Windows XP would become a relic of the past, something that was only installed on "old" computers.

Of course, things did not pan out that way and Vista was never implemented on anything but a token scale at most major companies.  It made its way onto consumer computers only by forcing computer manufacturers to use the less desired operating system on new PCs.

Still, Microsoft pressed ahead, hoping that marketing initiatives such as the ill-fated Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld commercials (does anyone still respect whatever ad agency turned out those?) and the Mojave Experiment along with the release of Service Pack 2 for Vista would eventually win over converts to the new operating system.

That never happened either, but it didn’t stop Microsoft from officially ending support for Windows XP as a "current operating system" in April, 2009.

Although there was some hand wringing in the media regarding the end of Windows XP support, neither businesses nor customers worried much about it.  The reality was that with hundreds of millions of installed seats at powerful, large, corporations around the world, not even Microsoft would be brash enough to simply let the most commonly used operating system they made wither on the vine.

But, what about now?

Windows XP: The End Is Near

When Microsoft first announced the end of Windows XP support, it was still officially claiming that Windows Vista would be the next Microsoft OS. But, it was working, very noisily, on the Vista Eraser — Windows 7. With an announced shipping target of January 2010, no one was holding their breath.

However, Microsoft had a brave new world to work in.  With no competitive pressure to release its next OS – the official Microsoft marketing slogan since the release of Vista could have been, "What else are you going to use?" — and a technology industry that was not yet fully recovered from the Internet bubble, there were few people clamoring for anything other than letting them keep using the old OS Windows XP.

Microsoft took advantage of this scenario, it would seem, to manage expectations a bit.

By announcing a target date of January 2010, the company gave itself plenty of wiggle room if issues were to arise.  This way, Microsoft could avoid the mistakes it made by pushing Vista out without addressing the major concerns of many users.

However, Windows 7 was built atop the already more solid Windows Vista OS and its subsequent Service Pack.  Combine that with a public no longer hungry from Microsoft OS bashing, and Windows 7 received a much smoother entry even as a beta release in January.

By the time the Release Candidate or Windows 7 RC was released for public download, people were already singing Windows 7’s praises.  The chorus only grew louder as an even more stable and feature rich RC version was installed on more and more PCs.

As the RTM ship date, the consumer release date, and the all important Christmas shopping season approach, the verdict is already in before a single official copy of Windows 7 is installed on a computer – Windows 7 is good enough.

Unlike with Vista, there should be little push back from retailers or computer manufacturers about quickly changing over their mainstream production and sales to Windows 7 on new computers.  The technology industry is dying for a much needed boost in hardware sales and Windows 7 is their best hope for the holidays.

In fact, the biggest issue right now is not about new hardware coming with Windows 7 pre-installed after September, but rather how and when to give free upgrades to users who purchase computers between now and then to avoid choking off all summer PC sales.

All of this adds up to a quick death for the Windows XP operating system that managed to hang on long after its creator declared it officially dead.

No Waiting for Windows 7 SP1

Many IT professionals live by the motto, "Wait for SP 1."

Microsoft has a somewhat deserved reputation as a company that can’t quite get it exactly right the first time around.  Whether this is a company culture issue or simply the incredibly vast array of hardware and software that people and businesses depend on to function flawlessly is up for debate.  However, in this case, waiting for SP1 might not be an option.

Consider that, whether it was "for real" or not, Microsoft did officially end support for Windows XP on April 14, 2009.  Assuming Windows 7 is released smoothly, and things continue to go well for users, the media looks to be tamed, giving no ammunition to those who would like to drag their feet on an upgrade.

Furthermore, computer manufacturers are chomping at the bit to begin selling Windows 7 machines to boost sagging sales.  Software vendors who have seen numerous companies sit on older versions of their products during seemingly endless rounds of budget cuts and spending freezes are also eager to churn out Windows 7 versions in order to collect those upgrade license fees.  In other words, one can expect that within 6 months of the release of Windows 7, the major players will be targeting their focus on their current state-of-the-art products, all of which will run on Windows 7.

Which brings us to April 14, 2010, one year after support for Windows XP has officially ended.  April 14, 2010 will come seven months after Windows 7 is released.  For those instances where users or businesses rely on an XP version of software, the company can point to the brilliant inclusion of Windows XP Mode as a way to get a little extra time to catch up with 21st century computing.

With stable products available, and both consumers and businesses willingly, if slowly, moving to Windows 7, Microsoft will have little incentive to continue providing unofficial goodwill support of Windows XP.  Instead, the company will likely announce, with little fanfare, that with more and more of its customers demanding the kind of features, security, and speed that Windows 7 offers, it simply cannot afford to be distracted by continuing to provide patches and updates for a system it stopped supporting 12 months ago.

And, Windows XP will be dead.

And, if you aren’t ready, so will you.


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