Channel Anxious, Hopeful About Microsoft's Windows 7

Channel partners hope Windows 7 gets a better reception than Vista and believe it will satisfy pent-up customer demand.

January 21, 2009

Lynn Haber

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Channel partners are voicing a hearty good riddance to Microsoft’s Vista operating system and, albeit cautiously, expressing the expectation for a better outcome with the company's Windows 7 operating system, which was recently made available for road testing and is expected to be shipped later this year.

“Of course as an IT provider we’re anxious to sell Windows 7 to our customers when it becomes available. But we also want them to be happy with it,” said Darren Stanley, president of Network Business Solutions, a seven year old Microsoft channel partner based in Woodland Hills, Calif.

Stanley believes that Windows 7 when it’s released will satisfy a lot of pent-up demand. While some of Stanley’s SMB customers migrated to Vista when purchasing new computer hardware, he says it created nothing but headaches for customers and for staff.

“What ran under XP was difficult with Vista,” he said. If a customer can live without Vista, Stanley recommends XP, an OS that’s been proven for years. In fact, user demand prompted Microsoft to throw a lifeline to XP by extending its shelf life until July. 

Business customers of Applied Micro, Dodgeville Wis., are also mostly sticking mainly to XP as they await Windows 7. Working with many seed and soil farmers running custom applications on hardware that is a few years old, moving to Vista isn’t an option.

“If Windows 7 releases well with good software compatibility and low overhead, it will provide us with a good stream of revenue for hardware and software,” said Joe Holter, network communication specialist with Applied Micro.

JamesTownsend, founder and president of Information Strategies, a Microsoft partner located in Washington, D.C., is excited about the prospect of Windows 7. With a customer base made up largely of federal, state and local government clients who have trouble keeping up with the latest operating systems, or for that matter who held back with Vista, he sees a customer base that will be raring to go when Windows 7 is released.

“For those of our customers who failed to get up to speed with Vista, Windows 7 gives them another chance,” he said. Equally important, he adds, by the time Windows 7 becomes available, many customer will be ready to replace obsolete hardware." The easiest and most natural time to replace an OS is with when you’re replacing hardware,” he noted.

System Upgrades

With the release of Windows 7, still many months down the line, Townsend isn't about to tell customers, point blank, to not upgrade to Vista. “Instead I recommend they have a long-term strategy for system upgrades and to coordinate hardware and software purchases,” he said. That means that if its beneficial for the customer to move to Vista it’s his job to help them.

If Microsoft learns from the mistakes it made with Vista, channel partners expect that Windows 7 will be a boon to business. To date, solution providers report getting few customer inquiries about the latest OS coming out of Redmond. They’re also not reporting much customer confusion given that XP, Vista and Windows 7 are very much a part of the OS conversation today.

Tom Rich, president of Mount Hood Computer Services, Portland, OR,  advises many customers who ask about upgrading their OS to steer clear of Vista. Mount Hood Computer caters to the small business market or professional businesses with between five and 100 employees. Rich said one client who moved all of its desktop and notebook computers, about 16 total, to Vista had problems with half of the machines, a combination of HP Compaq 6710b notebooks and HP DC 7700 minitowers.

Rich, a former programmer, pointed out a couple of things that Microsoft has to do to get it right with Windows 7. They include providing better software support and getting back to basics with good tight software that’s not resource intensive. Application compatibility, in particular, is a huge stumbling block for Vista adoption, he added.

While the channel is hearing good things about Windows 7, only a few VARs report much hands-on experience. Others said they cringed when Microsoft delayed the beta release of Windows 7 because the onslaught of demand overwhelmed the vendor’s network. “That’s just not a problem that a huge company like Microsoft should have,” said Holter, trying not to let his confidence in Microsoft falter.

TAGS: Windows,Microsoft,Vista,Windows 7,HP

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