A new study on corporate adoption of Windows 7 shows that the new operating system has already made serious inroads on the enterprise desktop -- signaling that the start of corporate deployments en masse is not far off.
The report, issued by analyst firm Forrester Research, found that only six months after its October launch, Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows 7 was already running on 7.4 percent of some 90,000 PCs that visited Forrester's site.
"[That's] a level Windows Vista didnt reach until almost a year after its release -- Windows 7 is on track to easily outpace Windows Vistas adoption," said the report, which was authored by Forrester's Benjamin Gray, Christian Kane and Robert Whiteley.
The findings may say a lot about corporate IT's plans for Windows 7. Early deployments of the system have already started, with many shops in the planning and pilot deployment phases -- normally reserved for only after a new operating system's first Service Pack is delivered. Helping the cause of the new OS is the fact that Windows 7 is already making corporate inroads by coming pre-installed on many new PCs entering the workplace.
As a result of the progress Windows 7 has made in the enterprise, those early plans are likely to begin turning into actual deployments beginning about mid-year, according to Forrester.
"With the global economy showing signs of recovery and tech spending set to increase this year across most geographies, Forrester anticipates that IT managers will begin to undergo their next major corporate PC refresh cycle by mid-to-late 2010, which will coincide with the start of their enterprise-wide Windows 7 migrations," the report said.
"Firms should target the end of 2012 as the ideal time frame to be completely removed from Windows XP and IE6 (Internet Explorer 6)," it added.
Forrester's survey found that Windows is still, by far, the dominant operating system for PCs -- running on 95.8 percent of the PCs it polled. The largest number of those PCs -- 74.8 percent of the total -- are running Windows XP, despite having been on the market for nearly nine years.
Meanwhile, Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) share of the desktop market continues to grow, if slowly -- reaching 4 percent by March, while Linux is holding steady with 0.2 percent, the report said. In April 2009, the two OSes held shares of 3.70 percent and 0.18 percent, respectively.
However, Microsoft has not done as well with its Internet Explorer browser, even with IE8, which shipped slightly more than a year ago.
Although IE is still the main browser in use in corporate shops -- to the tune of a 72.5 percent market share -- that's still down significantly from April 2009, when Forrester said it had a 77.2 percent share. Mozilla's Firefox, by comparison, holds a 20 percent share, according to Forrester's measurements, up from 17 percent a year earlier. Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Chrome has inched its way to 6.9 percent, up from 2.29 percent in April 2009, while Apple's Safari browser came in at 0.5 percent of corporate desktops, down from its position at 1.42 percent a year ago.