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Microsoft promises Windows 7 is channel-ready

The vendor identifies the channel opportunity with the new OS, and one channel partner explains why he's psyched for the Vista follow-up

With Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) releasing release candidate 1 (RC1) of its next generation Windows 7 operating system (OS) earlier this month and promising the completed product will be available by the holiday shopping season, the software vendor says the time is now for the channel to get ready to capitalize on the channel opportunities.

As the successor to Windows Vista, which suffered on the public relations front and from complaints around hardware requirements to ensure performance, Microsoft is hoping Windows 7 will be a much different story. And there’s a lot in the new OS for partners to leverage said Matt Wolodarsky, product manager, windows client with Microsoft Canada.

For ISV software partners and device manufacturers, Wolodarsky said Microsoft is acknowledging the pervasiveness of consumer devices such as cameras and smartphones by improving the device experience within Windows, and allowing partners to use that Windows base to improve the user experience.

For example, Device Stage is a new feature within Windows that makes it easier for users to find attached devices, and partners can build a whole new device interactivity experience on top of it.

Wolodarsky also points to Windows 7’s native support for the multi-touch interface in supported hardware, which provides another way for application developers to create unique interactivity between user and PC.

Microsoft also sees opportunities for partners that provide services, such as systems integrators, resellers and managed services providers. With the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, Wolodarsky said partners can bundle services and deliver an end-to-end solution to their customers to enable increased productivity. The pack also enables partner services such as migration deployment and consulting.

“With Windows 7 we’re really looking to streamline IT management and reduce costs,” said Wolodarsky. “We’re anticipating strong enterprise adoption.”

Stuart Crawford said there’s one big difference between Windows Vista and Windows 7. With Vista, customers felt they had to upgrade. With 7, they’ll want to upgrade.

Crawford, the vice-president of business development with Red Deer, Alberta-based Bulletproof Infotech, a Microsoft Gold certified partner, said his team has been playing with Windows 7 since the beta was released early this year.

“Microsoft now has an OS for the desktop that is something our customers will want, not a necessary evil we’ll have to steer them towards,” said Crawford. “It’s a very robust OS that meets the needs we’ve been testing in our test environment. We’ve been using it in production on some systems, and we’ve been very impressed to date.”

While Vista was notorious for its steep hardware requirements, Crawford said he has found Windows 7 is able to run on older equipment than could handle Vista. This could make hardware refresh cycles less of a barrier when it comes to pushing enterprise adoption.

“We don’t need to attach a new PC sale (with Windows) anymore,” said Crawford. “There’s an opportunity in any new hardware sale to attach Windows 7, but there’s the opportunity finally to do that software refresh for a lot of clients that stayed with Windows XP because of the costs of upgrading both hardware and software. We finally have a solution that will potentially run on many (but not all) of their legacy systems.”

Looking back on the troubles rolling-out Vista, Crawford said it wasn’t just about the hardware requirements. He said he believes Microsoft was also getting a bad rap from its competitors, and he also fingers IT professionals that didn’t fully understand the Vista value proposition.

“Getting buy-in from IT professionals will help, and now with the beta and release candidate program to generate publicity, it gives everyone an opportunity to test the software,” said Crawford.