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Windows 7: Worth the Switch?

Hello, readers -- and yes, I'm not Doug Barney! Your regular Redmond Report columnist is off traveling to Redmond, Wash. He'll be having some deep discussions with the Microsofties, giving them your feedback, no doubt. In the meantime, I'll be covering for him today. So here we go:

Microsoft on Tuesday settled some questions for those testing the Window 7 beta -- and you're all doing that, right? First, there will be a way to upgrade to the release candidate from the beta, but it involves some tweaking that leaves me woozy, quite frankly.

Second, there will be no upgrade path from Windows XP to Windows 7. I can hear your groans already. Sorry, but no soup for you!

Once again, the question looms for IT orgs: What value are you seeing in Windows 7 so far that might cause you to make the move? Tell Doug your thoughts at [email protected].

Downgrading Windows in a Down Economy
Windows 7 users will be able to downgrade to Windows XP. Skipping editions of the operating system is actually a long-standing part of Microsoft's downgrade policy, but it still seemed to surprise journalists, including me.

Downgrade rights might make it easier for IT departments to buy new PCs loaded with Windows 7, since it eliminates having to maintain different Microsoft operating system versions in the same shop. The availability of XP downgrade media from OEMs -- ostensibly cutting off in July for Vista-based PCs -- seems to have a longer timeline, depending on the OEM.

Every OEM will offer this downgrade capability with new PCs, but it gets a little hazy from there. In the past, some OEMs have charged for downgrades to be performed, while others don't charge. In addition, the Business and Ultimate editions of the OS can be downgraded typically, but not other Windows editions, which is mostly confusing for consumers.

Still, with the economy on the slide, new PC purchases might not be on the radar screen for IT departments. A new quarterly report on the U.S. IT market published by Forrester Research suggests that we're entering a bleak period for IT spending in 2009. The report predicts that purchases of IT services and goods will decrease by "3.1% in 2009." It singled out computer equipment purchases as bearing "the brunt of cutbacks in tech investment."

Assuming that you could buy a new Windows 7-based PC in late 2009, would downgrade rights to XP make it easier for your IT shop to purchase them? Tell Doug how downgrade rights matter, or don't, to your IT plans at [email protected].

Also, Lee Pender, executive editor of Redmond magazine, is looking for any bad experiences you may have had with OEMs in downgrading Windows. Talk to Lee here, if you'd like to share.

Virtually Free
VMware claims that its virtualization software can save organizations 50 percent on their server hardware costs. Virtualization Review Editor in Chief Keith Ward described the offer here.

If VMware can't demonstrate such cost savings, its virtualization services will be provided for free. Organizations wanting to take up VMware's offer need to be running "between 200 and 750 servers" and be based in the United States.

Mailbag: Should Sun Shop Around?
On Monday, Doug asked readers if they think IBM and Sun are a perfect match, or if Sun would be better suited with another company. Readers on both sides weigh in:

I think Microsoft should buy Sun. That would get the bees buzzing.

It should be Sun and Oracle. Nowhere near the overlap and some good complementary interleavings.

In my short, simple opinion, I feel that Sun should take the offer from IBM. This will allow for more collaboration and a more powerful offering with less overhead. In addition, the business smarts of IBM can do better than Sun, and Sun will strengthen IBM in development areas.

I think that Microsoft should buy Sun. It would then put the Java (J2EE)-.NET war at ease and also open the door for Microsoft Server platforms to further make its dominance present. We all know that Microsoft would love to squash Java and get its own server hardware plants.

If the government allows it to go through without very significant alterations or a protracted approval process, the Sun-IBM deal makes great sense for all. For the stockholders, there will be no better deal. For the employees and executives, they will be most at risk with IBM as the acquirer as opposed to another acquirer, but still better off than if they proceed to go it alone.

With the economy the way it is, the deal may help Sun and IBM. The question is, what does Sun have to lose and what can Sun gain? I would put together an analysis team to look at the advantages and disadvantages for both companies, and see where it stands at the midway point with an opt-out clause. Overall, I think it may be a good deal.

Check in on Friday for more reader letters. In the meantime, share your own thoughts by writing a comment below, or sending an e-mail to [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on April 08, 2009