Ballmer spearheads Windows charm offensive

Steve Ballmer, chief executive office at Microsoft sent out an open letter to business leaders this week, touting the bottom-line benefits of Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2 and Exchange 2010.

Steve Ballmer, chief executive office at Microsoft sent out an open letter to business leaders this week, touting the bottom-line benefits of Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2 and Exchange 2010.

He hopes to win over users who skipped Windows Vista to upgrade to the latest Microsoft technology. Many had their fingers burned when they tried to run XP applications on the Vista operating system. As Ray Titcombe, chairman of the user group consortium Strategic Supplier Relationship Group, says: "Microsoft has a lot to do to move on from the Vista mess."

However, the company has won some high-profile converts. They include: Intel, which is using Windows 7 for mobile workers; Ford which is using Exchange 2010 and Windows 7; and Continental Airlines, which expects to save more than $1.5 million a year by using the server virtualisation capabilities of Windows Server 2008 R2.

But given the economic climate, Ballmer, who is in the UK to address customers and Microsoft partners, may have an uphill struggle to convince businesses more generally to move quickly to the new operating system

IT leaders contacted by Computer Weekly were sceptical, with many saying they were struggling to find value in the new Microsoft desktop and server software.

"Business office systems fall well to the bottom of our priorities, especially in the current economic position," says Denise Plumpton, director of information at the Highways Agency. "Unless we chance upon a significant business advantage, or are forced to upgrade either because of reduced support for existing versions or to be compatible with other organisations who share information with us via such systems, then we'll be sticking with what we have for the time being."

Ben Booth, global chief technology officer at market research firm Ipsos, is in a similar position: "We expect a difficult economy next year so will postpone major investment to 2011." But Booth concedes that he will eventually have to upgrade. "Eventually communication with clients and others will drive us to upgrade the desktop."

CIOs and IT directors are more enthusiastic about migrating their servers onto Windows server 2008 R2, as and when they are replaced.

Peter Gallon, head of ICT at Northumberland County Council, says: "Where possible we are deploying Windows Server 2008 R2 (64-bit) but often application code is still 32-bit or not Windows 2008-compliant, which prevents us from deploying the new operating system more widely."

Booth believes Windows Server 2008 R2 offers significant business advantage. "We will do this routinely as we bring in new servers."

Owen Williams, group head of IT at property firm at Frank Knight, expects to deploy Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 by 2011. He says: "I anticipate there will be productivity gains in upgrading to the latest Microsoft desktop and server operating system software."

In the short term, the server software promises cost-reductions for IT departments. But Microsoft will have to work hard to convince businesses to switch to Windows 7, especially if they are running Windows XP Professional, which will be supported until 2014.


Windows 7 case study: Baker Tilly 
 Baker Tilly, a London financial services company, is one of the first companies to deploy Windows 7. The firm expects to save about $160 per PC by reducing deployment, management and energy costs.
 The company has been happy to deploy early release code and migrate to Windows 7. To get around software compatibility issues, the company uses Microsoft Terminal Services, which provides thin client access to legacy applications on a Windows 7 desktop PC. Simon Harding-Rolls, director of IT at Baker Tilly, says: "We have deployed Terminal Server as a temporary measure to cover a couple of apps whilst the suppliers are making their software fully compatible."



Microsoft desktop and server upgrades     
 Windows Server 2008 R2  Windows 7 desktop OS Exchange 2010 e-mail server  
 Available now  Available 22 October 2009  Available 22 October 2009
 Virtualisation  Runs on lower powered hardware compared to Vista  Extends e-mail, contact and calendar access across the PC, the phone and the web browser
 Business continuity Offers better corporate data protection and security  Microsoft claims it can help companies archive and protect information efficiently
 Power saving features    




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