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Microsoft Panel Urges XP Loyalists To Migrate to Windows 7

Microsoft has assembled a panel of MVPs, consultants and product managers to make the case for migrating to Windows 7 from Windows XP.

Moderator Stephen L. Rose, a Microsoft IT professional community manager, hosted Monday's Microsoft Springboard roundtable webcast titled "Is Windows XP Good Enough?" None of the panelists said "Yes." Instead, the consensus was that IT pros should try to modernize their systems, taking advantage of the resulting efficiencies.

The panelists also noted that XP drivers are getting harder to find as independent software vendors forgo supporting XP-based solutions.

Rose kicked off the talk with a list of technologies that were still around when XP was first introduced about 10 years ago (among them an Oldsmobile, a Walkman cassette player, a Nokia phone with no screen and the use of hardware devices for sector-based imaging).

Most of the talk centered on rebuffing claims about application compatibility, tough learning curves and budget considerations when moving to Windows 7. The general consensus was that if a PC was under 3 years old, the hardware should be adequate to upgrade to Windows 7.

Rose noted at one point that 64 percent of companies are still using XP. He added that there are a little more than 1,000 days before Microsoft's "extended support" for XP ends, which is also the time that free security updates from Microsoft will stop arriving automatically. Extended support for XP expires in April 2014.

Windows 7 support for mobility was one of the highlights mentioned during the talk. Unlike XP, Windows 7 is capable of automatically finding a Wi-Fi hotspot, noted Steven Erikson, a global desktop standards and design engineer at IPG. Rose added that users who skipped Windows Vista likely aren't aware of the search improvements that Microsoft added to its operating system after XP, which boosts user productivity. There was also talk of increased security in Windows 7 with the user account control, as well as features such as BitLocker and AppLocker.

On the application compatibility front, Gary DiPalma, senior consultant at Microsoft Services, said that IT pros can perform an inventory of applications and decide which ones they will want to bring over to Windows 7. Another solution is shimming to get apps to work on Windows 7. If that doesn't work, the next step might be to use Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V). However, DiPalma described virtualization as "a short-term fix."

Charlie Russel, a Microsoft MVP for PowerShell, suggested that using XP Mode for desktop virtualization would be an adequate solution if just a few users need to continue to use a specific XP-based application.

When it came to a discussion about deploying images, the panel generally advocated using the free Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT). It can be used with thumb-drive devices to speed up deployments across an organization. The tool can create an image in less than two minutes to push out an upgrade, according to the panel. Rose noted a statistic sourced to Gartner, which found that the average IT pro spends six hours to migrate a customer to Windows 7. He suggested spending that amount of time was unnecessary when using MDT.

IT pros also have to worry about the compatibility of their Internet Explorer 6-based Web applications when moving to Windows 7, which ships with IE 8. DiPalma claimed that about "75 percent" of IE 6-based Web apps will upgrade successfully to IE 8 without any problems. There's a change in how IE 8 handles trusted sites, but that's about it. DiPalma also said he was "confident" about Web apps based on IE 8 being compatible with the IE 10 browser when it's released. Microsoft announced the first platform preview of IE 10 last week, but the new browser won't run on Vista.

Rose noted that IT pros have access to 1,400 security policies that they can use with IE. DiPalma commented that there's no reason to go through all of them. Rather, IT pros can select the policies they want for specific purposes. Rose said some confusion remains on that point and that Microsoft has plans to release a whitepaper that will clear up the best practices to use.

Rose pointed IT pros to the Microsoft Springboard series Web sites to get more information about dealing with Microsoft product migration details. Those with Enterprise Agreements in place with Microsoft can get help setting up a testing lab, and Microsoft also provides a number of additional training resources to EA subscribers. IT pros can get direct help on setup questions by reaching out to their Microsoft partner, he added.

Microsoft has an enterprise learning framework (ELF) that serves as a communications center for Windows 7 help topics. IT pros can use ELF to build e-mail templates and populate them with help links for users who are new to working with Windows 7. Microsoft describes ELF at this TechNet page.

The webcast is available here.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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