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Windows 7: The pieces are coming together for a PC rethink

As organisations migrate off the unsupported Microsoft Windows 7 operating system to Windows 10, CIOs must assess their hardware refresh strategy

The latest worldwide device shipments forecast from analyst Gartner has predicted that 2.16 billion units will ship in 2020, an increase of 0.9% over the 2.15 billion units shipped in 2019. However, Gartner has also forecast a continued decline in the global PC market.

Even after experiencing a return to growth in 2019, PC shipments are forecast to decline in 2020 and beyond. Through 2020, this market will be affected by the end of the migration from Microsoft Windows 7 to Windows 10, Gartner warned.

The analyst noted that after three years of growth in the professional PC market, replacement levels will decrease, but there will be opportunities for professional PC replacements through 2020.

“The PC market’s future is unpredictable because there will not be a Windows 11. Instead, Windows 10 will be upgraded systematically through regular updates,” said Gartner’s research director, Ranjit Atwal. “As a result, peaks in PC hardware upgrade cycles driven by an entire Windows OS upgrade will end.”

Gartner has forecast that through 2020, the upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10, will continue as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across emerging regions react to Microsoft’s withdrawal of support for Windows 7 on 14 January 2020. Gartner estimates that one billion PCs will have migrated to Windows 10 through 2020 – around 80% of all PCs in use.

“There is still a segment of the PC market upgrading PCs. Even those who have moved onto Windows 10 will still upgrade older devices,” said Atwal.

But with Windows 10, Microsoft breaks the connection between hardware and the operating system, he added. While PC upgrades were previously aligned in a four or five-year cycle to tie in with each new release of Windows, Windows 10 is refreshed twice a year.

“Where they can, organisations will extend the lifespan of their PCs,” said Atwal, adding that even though there is no longer as tight a link between the operating system refresh and hardware, some organisations will to continue to upgrade PC hardware on a regular basis.

“The PC is an essential part of the equipment IT provides users. Do you really want to maintain an old fleet of PCs, that may cost you more?”

And while there is no Windows 11 on Microsoft’s roadmap, Atwal said that IT departments should take into account that new operating system upgrades are highly likely to include new features that will require better hardware.

The desktop is not the same anymore

According to Atwal, most IT decision-makers have needed to reorganise their IT department to account for Microsoft’s automatic updates to the operating system. He said IT departments need to focus more on Microsoft’s operating system roadmap. “[Focus on] what is coming through and the kind of hardware, memory, storage and processor specification that will be required to run it,” he said.

The nature of desktop IT has changed. Increasingly more software is delivered through the cloud and via a browser-based user interface. Users are able to start work on one device, such as a desktop PC, and then carry on working on a laptop and continue onto a tablet or smartphone. This is because all these devices have access to the same cloud storage and applications.

The enterprise PC market is also shifting from being geared up for five-year hardware refreshes, to now offering desktop as a service (DaaS) and leasing options, which enable organisations to keep their desktop IT estate up-to-date.

“Pieces of the puzzle are coming into place. We are heading in a direction we haven’t seen before. Look at the number of apps in the cloud, data in the cloud, and connectivity,” said Atwal, adding that all these technologies are enabling DaaS.

Read more about desktop IT

  • Cloud-hosted virtual desktops allow organisations that require GPU-accelerated apps to have more scalability, higher cost-effectiveness and be less focused on management.
  • It would be wonderful to transition to modern management at the same time as we move to Windows 10, but as we learned in the past, it's possible to do to much at once.

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