Last week I blogged about Windows 7 and whether or not it would be “the last enterprise upgrade.” Of course, that begs the question of why enterprise users are being forced to upgrade at all. The general perception was that Windows XP was working pretty well for most organizations, so why has it been replaced? After all, Windows XP was the most widely deployed operating system of all time!
So, why is everyone being forced to upgrade? First, the technical reasons…
- Weak security. Weak security = vulnerability to malware. The fact is that it is too easy to get duped into running rogue applications and getting malware infections in Windows XP. Microsoft did not want to reverse-engineer the User Account Control changes introduced in Windows Vista back into Windows XP, and those changes are part of a raft of security and kernel changes that make Windows more secure against malware. Building on the changes in Vista, Windows 7 makes it even harder to run privileged operations without giving explicit rights to do so, which means that malware can’t get a foothold without your permission.
- IP v6. Again, it might have been possible to reverse-fit IP v6 into Windows XP, but along with many other changes to networking components in Windows, support for IP v6 is only available in Windows Vista and later.
- Time to move on from old hardware and old standards. A lot of code for supporting old hardware was removed when Microsoft released Windows Vista, meaning that it did not work on older computers or with old peripherals. Microsoft doesn’t want to keep maintaining support for hardware standards that have been extinct for 10 or more years. Besides, all that code for detecting and supporting old hardware slows the Windows startup process.
- Ease of enterprise management. With the new Windows Image Format (WIM) and the improvements in the Automated Installation Kit (WAIK), Windows 7 is far easier to deploy and configure and Microsoft would have had to do a lot of work to reverse-engineer those features and the disk image support into Windows XP. There are many other enhancements in Group Policy and Active Directory support that combined make Windows 7 significantly less expensive to manage than Windows XP. In fact, Microsoft commissioned IDC’s System Software Research team to provide an overview of Mitigation risks and the findings claim that Windows XP is up to 5x more costly than Windows 7 to manage!
Of course, there’s no denying that Microsoft has more business oriented motives for pushing an upgrade to Windows 7. Windows upgrades give Microsoft a healthy revenue bump, especially from the consumer market, and forcing enterprises to upgrade every few years encourages them to purchase an Enterprise Agreement (EA) and maintain their yearly payments.
On a positive note, Windows 7 is a much richer and more enjoyable user interface than Windows XP. It has built-in support for hardware like Bluetooth, integrated search, support for the latest versions of Internet Explorer and so forth. After a short period of adjustment, most users should be much happier with a Windows 7 desktop.
What compelled you to move away from Windows XP? Or have you not made the move yet?