How Windows 7 Won’t Help Your Small Business – yet

by techenet on October 7, 2009

windows-7Microsoft will release its latest Operating System this month on the 22nd. This much anticipated upgrade will provide a bridge from the more commonly used Windows XP and the next generation of computing.

While the Windows Vista OS has also been available since Windows XP, the shortcomings of this platform (such as high hardware requirements and lack of compelling features) made it less used in small business and corporate environments.

Windows 7, however, will be shipping with many advanced and graphical features; it has been designed from the ground up to run on the latest hardware as well as hardware that is currently in service, thereby increasing computer investment life cycles.  This translates to being able to run Windows 7 on slightly older hardware.
But is Windows 7 so amazing that it is imperative to upgrade? If so, what advantage is there in upgrading to Windows 7 for the small business?

To better understand the benefits Windows 7 could bring to your business, let’s review the top Pros and Cons as they pertain to your business.


Pros

  • Improved Power Management – Power management encompasses several concepts, but the one we care about here is battery life.  For the desktop this isn’t such a big deal (hint – they don’t have batteries), but for the laptop user this is big news.  There are reports all across the internet of the great enhancements on the power handling of Windows 7 that enables it to literally give you more battery life – from the same battery you have now! That’s impressive.
  • Ability to Run the Latest Software and Hardware – As hardware and software vendors stop supporting, that is they stop developing and making, products for Windows XP, the latest and greatest will cease work with it – drivers or no drivers.  So eventually, simply by the nature of “new,” Windows 7 will be the “in” thing and, frankly, necessary.
  • Less Bloat – Bloat?  What is bloat?  Bloat is the extra, the unnecessary, the junk that they throw in that you really didn’t want, need, or care for; but somehow is there anyway, just making it hard to get around, and get anything done.  Bloat is synonymous with Microsoft, and to be fair, many software vendors, and is the nickname for Windows Vista. 🙂  Bloat is the reason Windows Vista required such new and current hardware, because only the fastest computer could keep up with Vista’s bloat.  Bloat, is the opposite of what Windows 7 has.  Windows 7 has been designed to run on the slowest PC (by “slowest” we’re really talking a couple years old here, not the clunker in your closet) and power the fastest gaming rig.
  • Windows XP Virtual Machine – Virtual Ma-what now?  First off, a Virtual Machine is the ability to run a computer inside a computer.  Essentially you can run a completely separate Windows Operating System on your computer.  It’s like looking through a, stay with me now and no pun intended, “window” on your Windows desktop.  What does this mean with regard to Windows 7?  Well Microsoft is shipping a built in Virtual Machine with Windows XP on certain versions of Windows 7.  This means that even if you run across some software or applications that absolutely will not run on Windows 7, you can install them into this Windows XP Virtual Machine (think of it as a wrapper for your old software) and still run it while having Windows 7 as your main OS.  It’s really quite ingenious.
    • UPDATE 10/8/2009 – XP Mode only works with certain newer hardware.  So while Windows 7 can run fine on older hardware, the Windows XP Virtual Machine may not be able to.

for or against

Cons

  • Learning Curve – As with any new piece of software, there is a period of adjustment as employees become accustomed to the layout and location of applications and things they are used to.  Continuing with tradition, the interface of Windows 7 is quite different than Windows XP, and a little different from Windows Vista.  This means that your people won’t be hitting the ground running even though the OS is ready and willing.
  • Compatibility (Software and Drivers) – Once again the “new” factor is working against us here.  Software and drivers may have to be rewritten by vendors to be compatible on Windows 7.  This means that older software may not work yet, or ever for that matter; and even more frustrating, that 10 year old HP Laserjet 4L printer you have stored in the back for emergencies won’t work either.  Why?  Because the vendor hasn’t made drivers for that printer that are compatible with Windows 7.  Typically vendors will eventually develop the correct updates so that hardware and software will work, but there’s always the waiting period when a new OS is released before that happens.
  • Cost – Of course there’s alwasy the issue of cost.  Want to upgrade?  Well it’s not free.  There will be the license costs of the OS itself as well as the support and labor costs of getting the OS installed and then all of your applications reinstalled and configured.  Not to mention any testing costs related to software that must first be tested for compatibility (why does that word keep coming up?).  And finally there is the cost related to loss of labor from the above mentioned Learning Curve.

Why You Want To Start Looking At Windows 7 Early Next Year
Regardless of the above Pros and Cons

UpgradeMan

  • Windows XP Availability – Eventually it will become harder and harder to get Windows XP on a new PC.  Officially, support for Windows XP ends in 2012, but prior to that, and as is evident even today, some PC vendors don’t even provide Windows XP at all.
  • Updates and Support – As just mentioned, support for Windows XP officially ends in 2012.  This means that patches and updates after that time will not longer be provided.  These patches and updates are crucial to sealing up the holes that are inevitably found in software, and with an OS like Windows, holes and vulnerabilities are definitely NOT what you want to have.

    YesNoMaybe

The question then still remains:
Should you upgrade?

The Answer:  an emphatic “it depends.”

  • My rule of thumb is to not upgrade any operating system until at least the first Service Pack (that is the first major update package), as this provides sufficient time to work out the initial bugs.  With Windows 7, I would expect this to be early Spring 2010.
  • In addition there are always driver support issues as mentioned above.  Drivers are the software that let you other devices, such as printers, digital cameras, etc. communicate with your PC.  Any time a new operating system is released, the vendors of the devices you buy must update the software to run on the new OS.  This often takes time and therefore it behooves one to wait to upgrade while the updates occur.
  • If you’re running Windows Vista, especially on older/slower hardware, then the speed increases alone might be worth it.
  • However waiting until early 2010 won’t hurt anything and will provide ample time for bugs and drivers support issues to be resolved.
  • If you’re a small business, the features in Windows 7 should bring some great productivity and efficiency benefits to you, but ultimately it may simply be force of coercion that your business feels the need to upgrade.
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