Are Microsoft's VARs Ready for Windows 7?

Last Friday marked the start of Microsoft's (NasdaqGS:MSFT) Windows 7 push toward release.  And there was a lot of fanfare.  Microsoft's Brad Brooks, Corporate VP for Windows Consumer Marketing, did an energized interview on Microsoft's blog mentioning the extensive amount of customer engagement that has gone into the development of Windows 7. 

"I'm still humbled by the amount of customers that have participated in this process. We have literally had millions of customers downloading, using and giving feedback on our beta and RC product, more than any other version of an operating system that we've done in the history of Microsoft.  We have also got a lot of enthusiastic customers that have been following every day all the news coming from Windows 7."

Roger Kay, principal analyst at Endpoint Technologies thinks the Windows 7 launch is much better coordinated than Vista's and offers some vital new features for enterprises, including Direct Access, migration tools, virtualization support, drive and device encryption, application control, and BranchCache.

Of course, the offer is available at the Microsoft Store.

In the Bay area, Fry's had a half-page color ad in a local paper that couldn't be missed.  The "Buy Vista Now Get an Upgrade Free*" promotion offered a technology guarantee for desktops/notebooks purchased now with Vista installed.  Additionally customers can pre-order Windows 7 between June 26 and July 11 on Fry's Web site with prices starting at $49.99.  But remember to read the fine print: shipping and handling charges apply to boxed software.  For the pre-order upgrade, additional hardware may be required.  

The promotion was also available through Dell, but not immediately visible. It's placement makes Dell looks less focused if not enthusiastic. 

But BestBuy's online offer was, no joke, the best.  It was easy to find and offered free shipping with a store pick-up option to come in the future.  The site also had numerous reviews from beta test participants.  All were positive and some had helpful information on good features and/or missing features.

So, Microsoft has learned from the mistakes of Vista, and this release is expected to be a major improvement.  The consumer channel is primed, but is Microsoft's larger channel base ready to push Windows 7?  The promotion isn't currently available through CDW or Softchoice. 

And some partners have reservations:

  • The pricing is better than Vista's, but still some think it's too high.

"The pricing looks a bit high, considering the current economy and public consensus about Vista" said Daniel Duffy, CEO of Valley Network Solutions, a Microsoft Gold partner in Fresno, California. 

  • Some partners think the upgrade cycle is out of sync with corporate practice.

Travis Fisher, executive vice president at Inacom Information Systems, a Salisbury, Md.-based solution provider,  observed Microsoft is pushing a three-year refresh cycle, when solution providers may advise a five-year cycle. "Unless there's a killer feature that companies must have, what's the point?" he said.

Yet, other Microsoft partners believe XP mode in Windows 7 is compelling enough to convince companies to upgrade. 

With all the hype and speculation, we'll all be watching how Windows 7 does, and how the partners respond at July's partner conference. 

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