Microsoft clearly has a hit on its hands with Windows 7, and it's trying not to give IT decision makers any reason to wait to deploy it.
Ironically, though, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) might just have undercut its own messaging with the splashy announcement of beta testing for Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) last week, bragging that the next generation browser as revolutionary, and radically faster than IE8.
Now, the software giant's slightly backpedaling, trying to make sure that its messaging doesn't lead corporate decision makers to wait for IE9 before they deploy Windows 7.
"Until the final code of Internet Explorer 9 is released to the Web, we recommend businesses first move to Windows 7 Enterprise with Internet Explorer 8 so they can immediately benefit from the enhanced security, manageability, Web standardization and lifecycle support that Internet Explorer 8 brings to enterprise browsing," Rich Reynolds, general manager of Windows commercial product marketing, said in a post to the Windows for Your Business blog Tuesday.
It may be only a small worry, but it's one that Microsoft is paying attention to. After all, systems managers would love to roll out software only once rather than twice -- so why not wait?
Windows 7 had already sold 175 million units by the end of June, after launching last October 22.
In June, Tami Reller, CFO of Microsoft's Windows and Windows Live division, told investors that the corporate "refresh cycle" was already well underway. Other company executives have since said that the expected refresh cycle -- whereby companies replace aged out PCs with new ones preloaded with Windows 7 -- will be spread over approximately the next two years.
That's because planning to roll out a new operating system, even on mostly brand new PCs, is a long and complex process even before the actual deployment. Typically, that process can take anywhere from 3 to 12 months or longer just to test applications, prepare for roll outs, and to perform pilot installations.
That's where Microsoft has gotten itself into a bit of a quandary. The company is in a heated battle on the Web, having seen its share of the browser market shrink to around 60 percent in August compared to a few years ago when its share was in the 90s. The browser's marketers feel they need to promote IE9 as the coolest browser ever -- witness the launch party in San Franciso for the IE9 beta -- in order to regain the initiative on the Web. But that could bite back.
"Bringing IE9 into the discussion doesn't help their [Microsoft's] cause," Al Gillen, research vice president at analyst firm IDC, told InternetNews.com. "IT has to get ready to deploy Windows 7 and Microsoft says, 'Oh, by the way, IE9 is coming'," Gillen added.
It's less expensive in terms of labor if technicians only need to deploy software once rather than twice, so there is some incentive for enterprises to wait.
"That could cause customers to back up and slow down the adoption [of Windows 7]," Gillen said, adding that he doesn't think a lot of customers will actually put off deployments, particularly since Microsoft has not yet even announced when IE9 is scheduled to ship.
Additionally, both IDC's Gillen and Matt Troka, vice president of product and partner management for technology provider CDW, agree that the refresh cycle is not driven completely by the need to upgrade the operating system.
"Most of [the driver for] the refresh cycle is that the PCs [in businesses] are so old, they have to be replaced," Troka told InternetNews.com. "My gut is that [Windows 7] is maybe 30 percent of what's going on," he added.
In the meantime, Internet Explorer 8, which was the first major browser update that Microsoft released in recent years, shipped in March 2009 and is still fairly new -- a point that Microsoft is making a point of emphasis.
"If you are among the 89 percent of business customers who are in the process of testing, piloting or rolling out Windows 7: Continue your deployment of Windows 7, which includes Internet Explorer 8," Reynolds said in his post.
"Your investments in Internet Explorer 8 will put your business on the path to realizing the benefits of Internet Explorer 9 when it becomes commercially available," Reynolds added.