Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer is in London to convince businesses that they should upgrade to the new versions of the Windows desktop and server operating systems.
As with previous releases, Microsoft has focused on lowering the IT management costs of running desktop computers. The security of corporate data is also a priority, with Microsoft extending its BitLocker disc encryption technology to support removable discs.
The IT industry has changed significantly since Windows Vista was released two years ago. In the worst economic crisis for years, the last thing IT directors want to do is ask the board to pay for a desktop operating system upgrade.
The only strong argument for upgrading is that the company remains on a supported platform. IT directors say they will upgrade Microsoft’s server operating system, Windows Server 2008 R2, as and when hardware is replaced. They see benefit in the server upgrade, but few are planning major upgrades to Windows 7 on the desktop in 2010.
The economic climate is wrong, and some IT directors regard desktop upgrades as discretionary spend. This is certainly not what Ballmer wants to hear. For the past 15 years each new version of Microsoft software has promised gains in productivity, free additional software and improved security.
Microsoft should be commended for its Trustworthy Computing effort, which has raised the level of IT security across the industry. The new Security Essentials add-on provides every end-user with baseline security. But its product development model of providing more free software with each operating system release is unsustainable.
Finally, there is a big question over desktop productivity because it is hard to quantify. To make the next release of Windows a success Microsoft needs to listen to what IT directors want. So Steve, it certainly does not look like people are ready for a desktop upgrade, irrespective of how much you sing its praises.