Introduction and migration headaches
Windows 10 is the latest operating system to drop from Microsoft, but whether it is the greatest is debatable.
According to figures from StatCounter, Windows 10 ran on 14.86% of desktop PCs by the end of February this year. But Windows 7 remained the dominant OS with 46% of PCs running this software. Even the ancient Windows XP accounted for 7.61% of all PCs, despite support officially ending in April 2014.
But why is that? Mike Hickson, managing director of LSA Systems, argues that while Microsoft has promised to focus on business consumers and their needs, how much its latest operating system branched out and brought something new and unique to the market is still under debate.
"Windows 10 can be praised for bringing voice command and a virtual assistant through Cortana, Enterprise Data Protection software as well as a self-updating operating OS under one roof," he says.
"However, when contrasting the amount of resources and time it takes to upgrade an entire company's PCs with an operating system that contains functions that can ultimately be found elsewhere, Microsoft has still not produced a feature that is unique and highly beneficial, which has not already been done to some extent in the tech industry."
Indeed, the main problem here is the perceived cost of updating all of the company's systems with many equating the move to a full hardware and software upgrade across the board. As a result of this some are choosing to delay the upgrade and some are staggering the move by upgrading as they replace old hardware which is also slowing up the process.
Others argue that an OS migration is a huge undertaking and analysts recommend at least 12-18 months to prepare for such a project.
"As such, and despite apparent slow progress, there's a huge number of organisations that are in the process of upgrading and have been for some time – our customer conversations suggest two-thirds of organisations are looking to start migration projects now," says Andreas Fuchs, senior product manager at Heat Software.
Windows 8 wasn't a great success, but if Windows 10 'solved' the problems Windows 8 created, why is Windows 7 still so popular?
"First you need to ask: when is the right time to adopt a new OS?" says Fuchs. "The answer to which is when business apps are supported by the new OS and new hardware is purchased with the new, preloaded OS. While these criteria are not met, businesses are reluctant to upgrade."
In the shadow of Windows 7
Windows 7 overshadows
Fuchs adds that Windows 7 has been tremendously successful and not without reason. "Businesses like it, IT teams like it, and many won't see a compelling reason to switch straightaway. It's classic 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' mentality.
"Likewise, there are usually teething problems when new operating systems are introduced, sometimes more noticeably than others. A lot of businesses would rather wait around until the kinks are ironed out, and you can hardly blame them."
But there will come a time when things will have to be fixed. Software moves on, loses support and a whole ton of reasons make upgrading the only option. Another reason, according to Damian Dwyer, practice director of End User Computing at IT Services firm ECS, is a real drive within organisations to 'standardise' the desktop, with the aim of reducing support and maintenance costs (usually with a single desktop build).
"However, the costs of maintaining a modern hardware platform on a legacy OS that is no longer supported – and subsequently transitioning that OS to a future 2+ version – can be significant," he says.
Arbitrary migration deadlines
Adrian Foxall, CEO of Camwood, says that businesses need to update (or at least start planning their upgrade) before Microsoft thrusts yet another arbitrary migration deadline upon them. In January 2020 Microsoft will end support for Windows 7.
"While this may seem a long time away, from our experience working directly with large enterprises, we know it took many as long as five years to move their entire organisation from Windows XP to Windows 7. If this is the case with Windows 10, these businesses are already behind schedule!" says Foxall.
Foxall further notes that we should not expect every organisation to have made the switch to Windows 10 within the next 12 or even 24 months, but given the 2020 deadline for Windows 7 they should at least be considering how they will make the migration.
"Given how many businesses missed the Windows XP deadline, it would be ideal to see IT departments preparing their staff and developing a strategy now, before the migration is thrust upon them from above," he says.
Foxall says that most important of all though, Windows 10 will likely be remembered as the last big Microsoft migration. "As many IT professionals have long since suspected, developers at Microsoft have announced that Windows 10 will be the 'last version of Windows', with the tech giant planning to switch to an ongoing subscription model."
Michael Dortch, senior product marketing manager at Landesk, says the next 12 months are going to reveal "whether or not customers are comfortable with the idea of frequent updates".
"Customers may want to monitor how well this works on a limited number of systems, and then decide whether to run on the Current Branch for Business or the Long Term Servicing Branch."
The Long Term Servicing Branch approach is similar to how Microsoft has rolled out Windows updates in the past (i.e. every couple of years), whereas the Current Branch option provides security updates, bug fixes, and new features every few months, and includes four sub-branch options, each tailored to suit differing business needs and the degrees of control administrators might want to take with regards to updates.
The final version of Windows?
Windows 10 is almost certainly the last large-scale OS planned. Foxall says that Windows 10 is more than just yet another upgrade, noting that "it is a jump to a whole new generation of Microsoft operating systems, and a first step towards Windows as a Service."
Perhaps in the future, we won't be asking if you should upgrade Windows, but if you can ever avoid doing so.