Will Microsoft's VARs cash in on Windows 7 Momentum?

Microsoft (NasdaqGS:MSFT) just confirmed Windows 7's release to manufacturing for July 13th. It looks like the launch is on track for October 22 as planned, and the Windows 7 retail pre-orders seem to be doing quite well. Both Amazon and Best Buy have reported a surge in orders since the promotion was launched. There’s a long list of retail locations carrying the promotion: Amazon, BestBuy, the Microsoft Store, Office Depot, and CostCo, Staples, Walmart and select regionals such as Fry’s.

This is a great start.  But, since retail sales typically account for less than 5% of windows sales, they aren’t the final predictor of market momentum. A large proportion of Windows sales are typically done via OEMs like HP, Dell and others. HP, Dell, Toshiba and Fujitsu are already prepped and have the pre-order retail promotion available on their online storefronts. It’s likely some consumers will purchase an OEM copy online or in-store, but most will get Windows 7 with their next PC purchase.  Microsoft is offering a free Windows 7 upgrade for those who purchase a PC with Vista between June 26, 2009 and January 31, 2010. It’s a global program, and OEM’s can choose to cut it off before January 31, 2010 if they so desire. Also, OEM’s can decide which computers will be eligible for the upgrade offer, so it’s uncertain, and perhaps unlikely, that  low end models such as netbooks or PCs on sale will qualify.

Technically speaking, it’s a good idea to find out if a clean install will be required.  XP users in particular need to be aware that if they plan a Windows 7 upgrade, a clean install is going to be necessary. Ouch! Ars Technica is a great source of information on this. 

Microsoft is also speeding up the international launch. A special “E” version of the software with the browser removed will be sold in Europe. Microsoft 7E will be sold only in full versions; there will be no upgrade versions available in the EU.  On October 22, the OEMs will be able to ship all languages simultaneously.  The retail software will be available in 14 languages on launch day, Oct 22 and in 21 more languages by Oct 31. According to Brad Brooks, Microsoft VP, "People wanted it faster and we’re giving it to them".

The VAR community still has lots of questions:

  • Windows 7 upgrade adviser is a good tool, but what applications have been certified as compatible with Windows 7? We’ll have to wait for the Windows 7 compatibility center which is set to debut at product launch.
  • Where are the answers for the myriad questions on global deployments?
  • And of course, will the retail momentum carry over into the corporate market? 

Microsoft will give it a big push with a whirlwind of Windows 7 publicity. But, at this point, not even Microsoft can answer that last one.



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