IT gives Windows 7 the green light

After taking a pass on Vista, organizations are ready to commit to Microsoft's new OS. Here's why

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Thomas says moving from Windows XP to Windows 7 has reduced the number of system images he'll need by 80 percent. "It has to do with drivers and Windows 7 being able to understand and adapt to them versus having a specific image built," he says. Pella has about 25 images for all of its users, each of which must be kept up to date with the latest software updates, patches and security fixes. His team expects to have fewer than five once the deployment is complete, which should save on administrative costs.

What users like

While IT executives say Windows 7 boots up faster than Vista, is more stable and removes the intrusive user access control pop-ups, most end users didn't have Vista. Instead, end users tend to compare the new user interface in Windows 7 to what they've had with Windows XP.

ModusLink's Sebastiano says that, on the whole, his users like the interface, particularly features like drag-and-drop "snap" resizing of windows for easy side-by-side comparison and task bar previews.

But Shane says his users are split on the new task bar. "People either love it or hate it." It's a challenge, he says, because he has users who can't navigate the Start menu in Windows XP to find programs. "If it's not a shortcut on the desktop they're in trouble." He fears that another change to the task bar may just add to user confusion.

Users also don't always understand Windows 7 libraries, a concept that replaces the standard folder metaphor with a more sophisticated model that allows groupings of files that may be stored in different locations. What's more, File Explorer defaults to the local library -- even if you don't want users pointed there. Shane says that even administrators may find it annoying at first. "When you're rolling out a bunch of PCs on a network it gets in the way," he says.

Shane says his users like Windows 7's interface improvements, such as those Sebastiano described, and more subtle changes, such as how Windows automatically makes desktop icons bigger on larger screens with higher resolution. "That has helped users with poor eyesight," he says. Users particularly like what he calls the "shake and bake" feature on the Aero desktop that lets the user minimize all open windows on screen except for the currently selected one by simply grabbing and shaking that window from side to side.

Such features have been well received, he says. "But users have to be told about them."

Thomas warns that a migration from XP to Windows 7 won't be a slam-dunk with users without a little training. "Users haven't always gotten value of the tools we shove their way. This time we're spending more time up front trying to understand where the values are and actually promoting that."

Challenges and roadblocks

Given a choice between bringing in Windows 7 on new machines and upgrading old ones, most organizations prefer the former. Most (58 percent) of the survey respondents, however, say they will also upgrade at least some existing machines, particularly those purchased within the last two years.

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