Intel has been so closely equated with Microsoft over the past 20 years that friend and foe alike have often referred to the pair as “Wintel.”
The two have been so joined at the hip, at least when it comes to desktop computing, it seemed inconceivable that Intel would refuse to move internally to Windows Vista. Yet, that’s what happened after Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) released the star-crossed OS in early 2007.
Windows 7 was a different story. Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) officials released a report in Septemberstating that the company intended “to begin enterprise-wide deployment of Microsoft Windows 7 on PCs with Intel vPro technology in early 2010.”
That doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be challenges, however.
An Intel engineer brought some of those challenges to the forefront this week in a post on the company’s Open Port IT Community blog.
Perhaps ironically, some of the problems have to do with the fact that Intel IT, like many enterprises IT departments, skipped Vista and kept most of its users running the now eight-year-old Windows XP.
“Take a company with more than 80,000 users who are administrators on their machines, mix in thousands of known applications, countless unknown ones, then just for kicks add in a move to 64-bit computing. On top of that, give your users a new Web browser and a new way of handling administrative permissions and you get a sense of the magnitude of deploying Windows 7 to Intel’s enterprise,” said the post by Intel engineer Roy Ubry.
Applications that fail with no explanation
One of the challenges has to do with the security model, called User Account Control, or UAC. Windows XP doesn’t have it. UAC was introduced in Vista and refined in Windows 7.
UAC informs the user when a program tries to perform a function that requires administrator approval. That’s fine for programs written for Vista or Windows 7.
“Where this gets to be a problem is when an application is not written to inform the user. In that case, the application just fails, with no message to the user as to why,” Ubry’s post said.
Another issue came up when Intel IT decided to move to all 64-bit computers along with the 64-bit editions of Windows 7. What that meant was that users can no longer run 16-bit applications and, while it seems a non sequitur for Intel to still be running 16-bit applications internally, it does.
“Many applications have been packaged using 16 bit installers. These installers and applications will need to be changed,” he said. Additionally, 32-bit and 64-bit applications use different directory paths — requiring more work.
Then there’s the fact that Windows 7 comes with Internet Explorer 8 (IE8), which poses its own set of challenges.
“With the move to Windows 7, IE8 becomes a ‘must have’ compatibility. IE8 does offer an IE7 compatibility mode, which can mitigate some issues, but other applications are written to require IE6, and mitigation of these issues must be addressed.”
That’s a problem that Intel IT has in common with many other enterprise IT shops. Some of the company’s employees rely on IE6, which Microsoft says is still so popular that it can’t kill it off for fear of hurting many customers.
“It means that a significant amount of work needs to be invested to prepare for Windows 7 application readiness,” Ubry added.
A Microsoft spokesperson said the company had no official comment. An Intel spokesperson did not return a request for further comment before publication time.