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Why are Win7 rollouts gathering steam?

In a recent report from ninemsn (for APC, Australia’s self-proclaimed “#1 online publisher”), Windows 7 is enjoying significantly better market uptake than Vista ever did. Their recent story “Windows 7 hits 4% penetration in PC market” got me to thinking about the relative fortunes of Vista versus Win7 and why the situation for the latter is ever so much better than the former.

Based on my own experience, and recent research into this subject matter for a Webcast I did with Barb Darrow for, there are lots of good reasons why this should be the case. Here’s a list of some of the best or most compelling of those items:

1. Windows XP (and its hardware) are getting long in the tooth.
    With XP itself over 8 years old, and even XP SP3 coming up on its second birthday this month, it’s past time to move up from XP to something newer, more capable, and a longer ongoing product life still ahead of it. With Vista never really adopted in a big way in corporate environments, that mantle now falls to Win7. The remaining items in the list help explain why it need not be a bitter pill to swallow.

2. Windows 7 imposes relatively modest hardware requirements
    Windows 7 will run even on netbook PCs with only 1 GB of RAM and modest low-end processors in the 1-2 GHz range. It’s happier with 2 GB (and although older netbooks don’t ship with 2 GB SO-DIMMs they can easily be upgraded to that level with minimal effort and downtime for under $40). In short, Windows 7 will run on most hardware that’s no more than three years old, which means that enterprises can upgrade notebook and desktop PCs in the middle of their lifecycles, without having to replace all hardware at once.

3. Windows 7 64-bit implementations work like champs
    On its third generation of 64-bit desktops now, Microsoft has finally gotten drivers, performance, and applications support working at an acceptable level. In fact, my personal experience (widely echoed all over the Web) is that x64 Win7 is more stable and better-behaved than x86 (32-bit) Win7. For anybody interested in using VMs, or running big memory-hungry apps (think PhotoShop or engineering/scientific tools), support for 4 or more GB of RAM is not just great, it’s also very workable.

4. Great support for legacy apps in Win7 Professional, Ultimate, and Enterprise
    Yes, you do have to ante up for higher-level versions to obtain license to use Windows XP Mode in Win7. But it’s easy to deploy and easy on users: icons for familiar, but older apps integrate onto the desktop or into Explorer with ease, and double-clicking to launch brings the whole runtime environment into play with little muss or fuss.

5. No major driver issues lurking in the bushes
    One bane for Vista was its introduction of a new driver model for hardware that basically rendered the vast majority of XP drivers irrelevant. While Win7 introduces some new and minor changes to its driver model (primarily to support its user-friendly and capable “Devices and Printers” control panel item), it works with Vista drivers without a hitch or a glitch, and if anything, handles hardware and drivers better than XP, not to mention completely reversing the terrors that early Vista adopters often had to endure.

6. Built-in support for Solid State Disks (SSD)
    Unlike earlier versions of Windows (including Vista), Windows 7 “understands” how to behave when installed on an SSD and knows how to configure and tune itself to make best use of these speedy but expensive storage devices. Though the portion of the market that will buy into this technology soon is probably under 5% of the business market, those who need them and can justify the cost on business grounds will apreciate what Windows 7 can do with SSDs.

I could go on, but you get the idea. For more discussion on this emerging phenomenon please read the APC story cited in my lead paragraph above, or give my podcast with Barbara Darrow a listen.

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