Traditionally, most IT shops have waited for the first Service Pack (SP1) of a new version of Windows before beginning deployments. This time around, however, other factors may be in play.
"The first Service Pack for Windows 7 is not necessary for the operating system's stability and security readiness," Michael Silver, a research director in Gartner's client computing group, said in a research notes earlier this month.
Normally, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) releases SP1 of a new OS between nine months and a year after the system first ships. It's usually only then when enterprises begin even considering adopting it en masse, since conventional wisdom generally has it that SP1 marks the first release where all the last-minute bugs and annoyances are worked out of a Windows version.
But partly because independent software vendors (ISV) take six to 12 months or more after a new OS release to ensure that their applications run properly, Silver said that most companies won't be ready to deploy Windows 7 even if they begin planning with the OS's launch.
As a result, "they will include [SP1] in their initial deployments," he said.
In a separate research note this month, Silver also stressed that IT shops need to start getting off Windows XP as soon as possible.
"Organizations faced with questions about whether to skip Windows Vista and go directly to Windows 7 must understand that there is likely less time to get off Windows XP than they think," Silver added.
Typically, most new Windows releases wind up on end-users' PCs as they come in, preinstalled, on new PCs as older PCs are rotated out.
But with support for Windows 7 and compatible applications on the way in -- with the OS's release to the public and corporate customers, which currently looks like early fall -- and with the window closing on support for older apps, businesses who avoided Vista may be under the gun to upgrade.
"Skipping Windows Vista puts significant pressure on the organization to execute a subsequent migration to Windows 7 in a relatively short time frame," Silver wrote. "Skipping a release (such as Windows Vista) means that organizations will not be able to move to the next release (Windows 7) leisurely, via PC attrition."
Vista's holdouts may face added difficulties in getting up to speed because they won't have had the benefit of putting their apps through testing under Vista -- and applications that won't run under Vista will most likely not run under Windows 7 either, Silver said. After all, Windows 7 is, by and large, an update to Vista, which has been out for more than two years.
That, in turn, adds in more time for IT shops to do their own testing, evaluations, pilots, and deployment planning.
"Organizations should make a decision quickly, establish a project plan and start preparatory work during 2009," Silver said. "Most companies planning on skipping a version should consider beginning application compatibility testing using the Windows 7 Release Candidate to get an early start on Windows 7 testing."
Although Microsoft touted the two Gartner research notes to the press, some of Silver's recommendations may signal a protracted ramp for Windows 7 -- which is probably not what Microsoft wants to hear after Vista's lukewarm reception.
"When planning to eliminate Windows XP, don't expect to deploy Windows 7 for mainstream users before the first half of 2011," Silver wrote.
"Organizations should not expect to deploy Windows 7 until 12 to 18 months after the OS ships. Although SP1 will probably be part of the initial deployment image, organizations won't be waiting for it because other requirements will take longer to resolve."
This article was first published on InternetNews.com.