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November 3, 2010

Time to dump XP – Gartner

Microsoft will continue to be a huge factor in all our computing platform plans for a long time yet, says Gary Flood

By

Fact: Microsoft won’t drop support for Windows XP, the OS only a mother and a very stubborn company leadership could love, until April 2014. Incorrect reaction by fuzzy-headed CIO: Great, I’ll save money sweating the assets even further for another three years. Suggested rational course of action by major analyst group: time to plan your migration to Windows 7/Office 2010 now.

How come? According to Gartner principal research analyst Federica Troni, it’s about minimising risk. "Enterprise-wide migrations cost up to multiple millions, they are complicated projects and a lot can go wrong," she reminded CBR. "Planning a big move like this is essential and we would recommend the most conservative set of assumptions about project milestones. You should be planning the maximum amount of time you can for testing and leave some real wriggle-room in case anything does go wrong."

As we know, most organisations, apart from the unlucky, rabidly pro-MSFT or dense, skipped the mess that was XP – Troni’s team suggests as many as 80%, no less. If you were one of the ones that did, stop being smug, as you may well have landed on Vista, which is fine – but now is the time to start to also plan a Windows 7 migration, apparently.

Well – hang on. Plainly that begs a couple of questions, one of which is, ‘Is Gartner recommending Windows 7?’ and it patently isn’t. What Troni is saying is that the 7 and 10 combo is a serious uplift from where you may now be with Vista – and certainly will be if on XP. So, again, make the move work for you, not against you.

"While Office 2007 incorporated many changes, including a new user interface, Office 2010 is a substantial change for Microsoft in its competitive position, which adds simultaneous collaboration and a browser version to compete with products such as Google Docs," says the firm.

"Windows 7 has become a critical project that will touch every PC in almost every organisation," Troni adds, noting that, "Many organisations are planning to deploy Office 2010 as they roll out Windows 7, but should only do so if it makes sense. They shouldn’t imperil the success of their Windows 7 migration by deploying Office 2010 if they don’t have sufficient time for planning and application testing, and remediation."

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As a result, organisations running Office 2003 need to start planning and testing for its replacement, at the latest, by mid 2011, if they are considering moving to an alternative product. She thinks many of us will be in that position; Gartner expects Office 2007 to peak at under 50% of the global PC installed base and its desktop productivity suite buddy to eventually account for just over 50%.

Hence the time-line warning – you can’t start doing this in 2014, it’ll be too late by then. Troni says by then 95% of organisations will not be able to have their users run the free web release of Microsoft Office and by then organisations that commit to new versions of SharePoint will require new versions of Office to maximise their investments, among a host of very practical, migration-impacting constraints.

We said there were other questions begged. So let’s address them. Are we saying that we can ‘only’ move to the latest Microsoft version? Surely there are other choices? There are – but Troni isn’t sure they’re that compelling for the average CIO.

"A planned major OS migration is a great time to look at the whole situation and see if an alternative strategy, without doubt," she told us. "So there are possible moves to [a cloud-based] centralised architecture, or use of non Microsoft desktop products – of course."

But she says her team isn’t seeing that much ‘bite’ out there in Customer Land. "We have had a lot of prompting from places like the EU into things like open source, but in reality we haven’t seen that much take up of things like Linux on the desktop, though we have definitely seen a new contender – Apple is once again a serious corporate desktop choice.

"By the same token, we don’t see things like corporate use of Google Docs or free software if the files are to be kept on any public cloud – though that doesn’t mean private clouds couldn’t be extremely useful to some organisations," she added.

So there you have it: Microsoft will continue to bother us, I mean, continue to be a huge factor in all our computing platform plans for a long time yet.

Fact: Steve Ballmer will like CBR (again) for saying this. Incorrect reaction by fuzzy-headed CIO: Then I don’t need to worry about the cloud! Suggested rational course of action by anyone with a brain: Competition keeps us all honest and Microsoft would be a better company if there was more of it.

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