Dismal economy hits corporate Windows 7 testing

Firms with solid budgets more likely to be checking out the OS, survey says

Although Microsoft's next operating system is months away from release, the recession is already having an impact on Windows 7, a survey of 320 corporate administrators said today.

According to the survey, which was conducted by Amplitude Research for remote access software maker Van Dyke Software, administrators whose corporate IT budgets were dropping in 2009 are less than half as likely to be testing Windows 7 at the moment.

"There's a significant difference in testing for companies that have experienced an IT budget cut," said Steve Birnkrant, CEO of Boca Raton, Fla.-based Amplitude.

Slightly less than a quarter of the network and security administrators polled said they were currently testing Windows 7, which Microsoft released in beta last January, and pushed out as a release candidate just over a week ago.

And while 38% of the administrators who work for companies that plan to boost their IT budget this year are running Windows 7 through its paces, just 18% of those polled at companies where the IT budget will drop in 2009 are doing the same.

"Overall, the response to Windows 7 seems to be positive," said Brinkrant, citing the 39% who said their firms plan to deploy the OS. "But there's a significant disparity between companies based on their IT budget."

Even when administrators waiting for the final of Windows 7 were included, those at firms with shrinking IT budgets were less likely to test. Although 64% of IT pros at companies with increased budgets were either testing now or plans to start doing so when Microsoft launches the OS, only 48% of the administators at money-tight organizations said the same.

Amplitude's 39% is an aggregate that includes smaller groups of administrators who said that their companies have plans to deploy Windows 7 after beta testing (5%), after testing the final code (14.4%), after Microsoft releases the first service pack (10.3%) or when they buy new hardware (9.1%).

Even so, 59.1% said their organizations have no current plans to put Windows 7 on PCs.

Those naysayers gave two main reasons for avoiding Windows 7, said Brinkrant: a third of them said they couldn't justify the return on investment, while almost half -- 45% -- said that they were "more comfortable stick with current versions of Windows."

Most corporate PCs continue to run Windows XP, an operating system that, because of its long run and its proven stability, has been hard for Microsoft to pry from customers. Vista, which was to be the successor to XP, has largely failed in that job within enterprises; Microsoft is now banking on Windows 7 to be what Vista could not, a replacement for XP.

The continued pull of XP on IT administrators isn't new. Last month, another research firm said that they were more concerned about the cost and overhead of migrating to Windows 7 than they were about continuing to supporting the eight-year-old XP.

Birnkrant said that what's more important is the overall reaction administrators had to the new OS. "My overriding reaction when I first looked at the data was that they were giving a relatively strong response to Windows 7," he said. "Nearly half are either testing [Windows 7] now, or they will when the final release is available."

Microsoft has not yet set a ship date for Windows 7, but comparisons with the final stages of both XP and Vista put the likely public availability in a several-week span of late August to late September, 2009.

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Gregg Keizer

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