Windows 7 - The Last Hurrah?

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Looks like the IT guys are not that anxious to chuck XP yet.

In a market study of over 1,100 IT folks by Dimensional Research that’s supposed to be released shortly, fully 83% of companies represented in the survey will not upgrade to Windows 7 in the next 12 months, although within 24 months a cumulative 59% indicated they would upgrade with the balance strung out after 24 months. Similar to Vista, software compatibility and increased hardware requirements topped the list of concerns.

Fully 83% indicated they would skip Vista and go directly to Windows7 – this means there’s going to be a LOT of users going through the pains of a complete new OS install; data migration is going to be fun. Somehow I think users are not going to be thrilled with this prospect.

Of more interest to me and this has to give severe stomach cramps to M$, 14% of those surveyed are using a non-Windows OS in their mix, and Ubuntu is gaining ground rapidly, with 25% of the non-Windows users opting for this popular Linux distro (up from 17% two years ago) – this compares to 27% for Mac OS, down from 29% the year before. For more cramps, fully 50% considered using a Non-Windows OS.

Throw into this cauldron the “cloud” and M$ is possibly looking at taking some serious profitability hits over the near term. Could be the “perfect storm” of netbooks, the “cloud”, the recession/depression and the increasingly popularity of Ubuntu are converging on M$’s OS monopoly. No one, myself included, expects M$ to suffer greatly (although it’s always relative) but the trends seem to point to a more competitive environment than what one might have expected a few years ago.

An interesting side note popped up HERE about a M$ skunk-works project called Midori. Basically this is one of probably many research activities underway in Redmond but it does directly address an environment in which virtualization and the “cloud” play a major role and the stand-alone OS model a diminishing role. With PCs being more like “thin clients” with just enough CPU power to access internet embedded apps, the OS shifts dramatically away from the PC.

Considering that something like 80% of M$’s sales are tied to new PC sales, a world where the OS migrates to the net is not the business model M$ is currently operating under. Considering also that paradigm shifts create all kinds of opportunities for new approaches, it’s not inconceivable that the upcoming decade will see a bunch of new players taking big bites out of M$’s market share.

Don’t discount the impact on the hardware guys as well. Mobility is the name of the game and this means small, lightweight and energy efficient laptops/netbooks taking a lot more share of the PC pie. Intel right now is running away with this netbook market with its Atom CPU, and anyone who thinks this is a powerhouse product has not used a netbook yet. There will always be a market for CPU power on the desk/lap, but there is a parallel market developing for Atom type CPUs as well.

Seems to me the more fragmented the PC market becomes, the more likely that alternative OSs and small, mobile computing solutions take bigger bites out of the traditional PC players markets. Could be the big players geared to monolithic computing solutions will be on the short side with more nimble companies with targeted computing solutions playing a larger role. Keep an eye on these guys – could be a great investment play.

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