Analysis: Window of Opportunity

Although the exact release date remains shrouded in secrecy the push in the channel to make sure Windows 7 has a better experience than Vista has already begun.

Although the exact release date remains shrouded in secrecy the push in the channel to make sure Windows 7 has a better experience than Vista has already begun.

The launch of Vista saw distributors taking stocks they failed to shift and a lukewarm reaction from many businesses to the proposed upgrading away from Windows XP.

That experience left its impact on the vendor and this time around Microsoft is making a great deal of effort to prepare the channel and its customers for the arrival of its next operating system.

Compatibility and security
The main feedback the vendor received after Vista was around compatibility and security.

As a result, the small business version of Windows 7 will have an XP mode allowing customers the chance to run old applications until they get to the point where they are in a position to upgrade.

“Users can continue to use those [XP] applications while they look at along-term solution,” says Laurence Painell, Windows 7 product manager at Microsoft. He says the company is fully aware of the current economic situation making application upgrading less attractive.

The other bonus for customers worried about finances is that they can try the system before buying it, with an offer to download the release version which went online earlier this year and use it until June 2010.

There is also improved security with encryption options spread from the hard drive to portable storage.

“We have seen a drive to people working from home and they will be able to use features like direct access,” adds Painell.

Plans for the launch, which Painell says “will be no later than January 2010”,make extensive mention of the need for confidence and the importance of the channel having fully understood the product.

“One of the key things is readiness and ensuring the partner community understands Windows 7, whether in business or in the consumer market,” says Simon Aldous, partner group manager at Microsoft.

Channel alignment
Some of that work has involved checking the channel is aligned properly and there are enough resellers, VARs, retailers, system builders and LARs ready to sell the product.

He acknowledges that Microsoft carried out a lot of work in the channel in the run-up to Vista but says the company could have done more to make things click more easily.

“We probably didn’t do a good enough job last time. We got feedback [from the channel] and we are addressing it this time,” he adds.

The result of the vendor’s determination to “be far smarter” this time around is already apparent and can be seen in its regional reseller activities and numerous road shows organised with its distributors.

The beta version of Windows 7 has already been downloaded by thousands of people. Painell says a number of key partners have already been using the product.

Come the launch, the company’s aim is that the channel will be thoroughly familiar with the product, brushed up on the salient points to include in pitches to one-man-bands up to enterprise customers, and trained on all licensing aspects associated with the product.

The release clearly matters to Microsoft but, as the channel found out painfully with Vista, it also matters to the wider market and there will be plenty of determination to spend the next few weeks getting familiar with the product.

“If we can’t show the value in Windows 7 there is no belief to then go and adopt it,” concludes Aldous.

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