Windows 7 Forecast: Mostly Sunny, With a Chance of Showers v1.0

Table of Contents

  1. Summary
  2. What’s working
    1. Early, open feedback
    2. New Features
    3. Optimized for various hardware and for pricing
  3. Key Market: Netbooks
  4. Key Takeways

Summary

For the better part of eight years, the most popular Microsoft operating system hasn’t been its newest. Windows XP, introduced in October 2001, became the de-facto standard of Windows, even after the January 2007 introduction of Windows Vista. Consumers and enterprises alike struggled to justify a move from XP to Vista due to several issues — poor performance, driver support issues and cut features were all a factor. At launch time, computer users struggled to get their hardware working with Vista. On the surface, it appeared to end-users that Microsoft caught its hardware partners unaware with the new operating system. Much of the hardware incompatibility was addressed through manufacturer driver updates and in the first service pack for Vista, but the bad taste remained. Vista also exhibited performance challenges on legacy equipment. The same computer running Windows XP was often far faster than when running Vista. And Vista simply didn’t tolerate lower-end hardware unless memory was added — and that approach was a minor stop-gap, at best. In general, the overall market simply couldn’t justify the Vista path with mediocre hardware compatibility and performance issues on existing equipment.

What has all of this meant for Vista adoption rates? The numbers speak for themselves: looking at a proxy measurement of operating systems used to browse web sites, StatCounter shows that the week before Windows 7 launched, the most used operating system is still Windows XP. Even at the ripe old age of eight, XP is still used by roughly three out of every four Windows users. It’s likely that StatCounter data is skewed heavily towards consumers, but the same challenges have hurt Vista in the enterprise too. A February 2009 Forrester survey alluded that Vista is only powering 10 percent of corporate computers. For all of its new features to strengthen enterprise computing, a 10 percent adoption rate over two years is hardly considered successful.

Operating System Market Share By Quarter

Source: W3Counter.com

Clearly, Microsoft is looking for Windows 7 adoption to quickly outpace that of Windows Vista and finally move people from Windows XP. If that doesn’t happen, Microsoft could essentially be “stuck” supporting a legacy operating system and its compatible applications. Devoting resources to such support reduces the amount of resources available for new technologies that Microsoft plans. The unfortunate part is that while consumers may adopt Windows 7 in great numbers, the enterprise will be a harder fought battle. Aside from the slow Windows Vista update caused by the above mentioned issues, many IT shops are wary of a mass operating system upgrade until the first service pack arrives. Since some believe that Windows 7 is nothing more than a service pack to Vista, perhaps a few companies will make the move sooner, rather than later.

For Microsoft’s newest operating system to be considered successful, it will need to show faster adoption rates than Vista.

Could Windows 7 be the anti-Vista and finally change these adoption rates?  Knowing what Microsoft did wrong with Windows Vista, has the company leveraged that information properly? In this report, we outline some of the promising signs, but find evidence that netbooks could end up being the Redmond giant’s Achilles heel.

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