What IT wants
For IT, Windows 7 is an opportunity to take advantage of new features and better integration. Windows Server and Microsoft's System Center Configuration Manager, in particular, can save money by requiring fewer pieces of management software and can make managing desktops easier.
Art Sebastiano, vice president of infrastructure at ModusLink Global Solutions Inc. in Waltham, Mass., has been testing Windows 7 on a few dozen machines for a rollout on 3,500 PCs in 30 locations around the world. He says Windows Server's account credential (password) caching capability, which facilitates single sign-on and allows access to networked resources when a domain controller is unavailable, works better with Windows 7 clients.
"Driver support and legacy compatibility have been good," Sebastiano says, adding that Microsoft offers a downloadable XP Mode program to facilitate backward compatibility.
Shane says group policy controls are improved in Windows 7. "We really love the new client group policy. You can manage a lot of things through group policy now that used to require a log-in script," he says.
At University HealthSystem Consortium in Oakbrook, Ill., a new Windows 7 feature called DirectAccess, which allows secure remote access without a separate VPN client and log-in, is a big win. Donald Naglich, director of technology infrastructure, says that for the half of his 275 users who use laptops, remote access will become more seamless. "It's one of the main reasons we want to [move to] Windows 7," he says. "It's one less piece of software we have to worry about from an integration standpoint." He plans to start migrating to Windows 7 early next year and hopes to have all systems upgraded by the end of 2011.
Pella is considering deploying DirectAccess for the same reasons. "Users don't like having to remember to launch a VPN client and log in," Thomas says.
Both Pella and Milliman see BitLocker, a Windows 7 feature that provides full volume encryption, as a solid win for laptop users. "We used a third-party product that didn't integrate well with Windows and had a separate password," says Shane. "Now we can secure laptops, and the encryption and security is transparent to the user."
The User Interface
IT executives say Windows 7 boots up faster than Vista, is more stable and removes the intrusive user access control pop-ups. But most end users didn't have Vista, so they tend to compare the Windows 7 user interface to Windows XP's.
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 comparisons, and taskbar previews.
But Shane says his users are split on the new taskbar -- "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 notes. He fears that another change to the taskbar may just add to user confusion.