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Windows 10 migration plans hit a wall

Microsoft's free Windows 10 upgrade offer boosted adoption last year. But now, without that incentive, businesses are holding onto Windows 7 for as long as they can.

As adoption stalls, some organizations are delaying their Windows 10 migration plans because of lingering concerns.

Windows 10 saw rapid adoption when it first launched, and Microsoft claimed it was the fastest-growing operating system ever. But for the companies sticking with Windows 7, questions about IT control over automatic updates and support for legacy applications are still unresolved.

"Windows 10 has not proven itself," said Jim Davies, director of IT at Ongweoweh Corp., a pallet and packing management company in Ithaca, N.Y. "I won't switch to a new OS until it's proven itself. ... New is not always better."

In February, Windows 10's market share dropped slightly, from 25.3% to 25.19%, according to NetMarketShare, which collects OS data from internet users. At the same time, the Windows 7 numbers went up, from 47.2% to 48.41%.

Looking specifically at the enterprise, Windows 10 adoption is leveling off there, as well. In 2015, the year Windows 10 debuted, less than 14% of businesses planned to migrate, according to the TechTarget IT Priorities Survey. That number skyrocketed to over 40% last year -- thanks to Microsoft's free upgrade program -- but only inched above 46% this year.

Windows 10 problems

When Microsoft sends out a Windows 10 update, the user doesn't have any say over when the download and installation happens. The PC can automatically download an update and restart itself while the user is in the middle of working on something. IT can temporarily postpone these updates and restrict them to certain times of the day, but can't completely control them.

A separate issue occurred with the arrival of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update in August, when the operating system didn't recognize some third-party applications -- including crucial antivirus software. Because of these issues, Windows 10 isn't ready for businesses to use, Davies said.

Migrating to a new operating system can be a headache in itself. IT departments must vigorously test the new OS, test the compatibility with legacy applications and deploy it to all their users. The number of users in an organization and the number of legacy apps it uses play into how long the migration process will take.

Migrating operating systems can be a very disruptive transition.
Jack Narcottaanalyst at Technology Business Research Inc.

"Migrating operating systems can be a very disruptive transition," said Jack Narcotta, analyst at Technology Business Research Inc., in Hampton, N.H. "Microsoft has tried to make it as easy as possible, but it's still a disruptive process."

Ongweoweh Corp. has some financial applications that only run on Windows 7, and that's another reason the company has no Windows 10 migration plans, Davies said.

The company will have to start making plans to move away from Windows 7 prior to its end-of-life date in 2020, however. 

"When we are forced off Windows 7, we'll likely go to Windows 10 at some point, but I'm going to go fighting," Davies said.

Windows 10 deployment plans

Windows 10 vs. Windows 7

Although the dip in NetMarketShare's Windows 10 numbers is negligible, there is still a notable difference in usage between Windows 7 and Windows 10. The newer operating system still has 23% less of the market, almost two years after its launch.  

Since Microsoft's free Windows 10 upgrade offer expired last July, organizations are now holding onto their older PCs for as long as they can, said Zeus Kerravala, founder at ZK Research in Westminster, Mass.

"You needed beefy computers to run Windows 10 well," Kerravala said. "Organizations are stretching out the lifecycle of their computers out a little more."

Businesses might not see Windows 10's new features, such as Continuum, Cortana and the Edge browser, as being worth the cost of new hardware, and they would rather stick with what they've got for now, he added.

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