There is no doubt that Windows 7 has gotten much better feedback than Windows Vista. As such, many organizations are likely to be tempted to skip Vista, and move directly from XP to Windows 7. However, skipping a version of Windows comes with quite a few risks. I've just read a white paper from Gartner that includes some interesting arguments on why skipping Vista might not be such a good idea. The document was published in July but continues to be just as, if not more, relevant today. Because it is now clearer what improvements Windows 7 will bring, it is a good time for those who plan to skip Vista to re-evaluate that plan.

I have summarized the main risks outlined in Gartner's paper.

Windows 7’s release date unsure ^

It is uncertain when Windows 7 RTM will be available. Most likely, it will be released in the first half of 2010. However, Microsoft might once again postpone the release of a new Windows version. Therefore, it is not really possible to plan when you will finally get rid of Windows XP.

Windows 7 stability uncertain ^

Even if Windows 7 is released at the beginning of 2010, it will take time to tell whether it is stable. Most organizations will deploy Windows 7 only by 2012. Can you wait this long?

ISVs will drop support for Windows XP ^

Independent software vendors (ISVs) will begin to drop support for Windows XP in early 2010, and, by 2012, most ISVs won't support XP anymore. As for OEM support for Windows XP, in 2009 only 80% of OEMs will fully support XP, and by 2010 this number will possibly have dropped to only 50 or 60%.

Pressure to deploy Windows 7 too early ^

If you skip Vista, you will be forced to deploy Windows 7 sooner or later, because ISVs and OEMs will not support XP anymore. Unfortunately, many ISVs will not yet support Windows 7. You will then run into the same problems as those organizations who adopted Windows Vista too early.

Budget problems ^

Deploying Windows 7 might require upgrading some of your applications, which will increase costs. The necessary budget for new hardware and software licenses might not be available at the time when migration to Windows 7 is unavoidable.

Additional Windows license costs ^

As soon as Windows 7 is available, you probably will have to buy Vista licenses to be able to install XP on new PCs. When you then upgrade to Windows 7 you will have to buy additional Windows 7 licenses. If, instead of XP, you deploy Vista on new PCs, you will be able to buy Windows 7 licenses, which will include downgrade rights to Vista, but probably not to XP.

Vista’s availability may end too early ^

If Vista licenses can't be bought anymore before you are ready to deploy Windows 7 it may be impossible to legally install XP on new PCs.

From my perspective, this all sounds very reasonable. The main argument of Vista detractors is that Windows XP works just fine. The problem is that this might change soon. You might feel that is unlikely that there will be software or hardware that won't work with XP anytime soon. However, "working with" and "being supported by" are two different things. What if you have a major problem with an important application, but your software vendor tells you that they can't help because you are running it on Windows XP? Skipping a Windows version has always caused problems. I doubt that it will be any different this time.

However, I also agree with Gartner that small organizations able to perform a forklift migration (replace all PCs at once) could save costs. For them, it will be a matter of not missing the right point in time.

I'd like to add two more arguments. First of all, I am convinced that it makes sense to migrate to Vista, simply because it is a great operating system. Windows 7 has a couple of interesting new features, but it is basically an evolutionary release. The important changes, especially the new security model, the improved user interface, and the new imaging capabilities, are all Vista developments.

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Secondly, if your organization skips Vista, you will be hopelessly left behind as an IT pro. This will not be good for you or for your organization. Once you do deploy Windows 7, you will have to learn all of the Vista stuff, plus the Windows 7 enhancements, in a very short time. This will mean stress and a higher risk of error. And, if you do skip Vista, and end up changing employers before 2012, you’d better make sure that you only apply to organizations who also didn't like Vista.

8 Comments
  1. SLam 14 years ago

    Would it really justify the cost to purchase Vista licenses only to eventually upgrade to Windows 7? The RTM date is perhaps the most important factor, if they are able to get it out by this year (which might not be likely), then the Vista skip might be a good idea.

    But you’re correct in the learning curve from XP -> Windows 7. Vista would be a nice stepping block in between.

    While I like Vista x64, I’m really loving Windows 7. Feels snappier.

  2. SLam, I somehow doubt that Windows 7 will be released this year. It seems the beta is not even feature complete. But even if they manage to get it out for Xmas, I would wait for the first SP before I deploy it in a corporate environment.

    I am not yet sure if I like the Superbar, but I like fish. Unfortunately, this nice feature will probably disappear in the RTM. 😉

  3. Chris Lehr 14 years ago

    Also, Anyone who purchased XP in SA’s will almost definitely expire before Windows 7 is out.

  4. Usually SA customers get a longer reprieve. It is just that they are wasting their money if they don’t make use of their upgrade right.

  5. Simplify PC Solutions 14 years ago

    Excellent points, all. We’ve been saying much the same thing for months. Hopefully IT types will do some research into Vista’s benefits rather than letting the nonstop bashing continue to influence their decisions…

  6. James 14 years ago

    I’ve been using window 7 for a couple of months now… First on my home PC and currently on my work laptop as well, and I have to say that this beta runs better for me than the released and fully patched vista did. It is the only thing that kept me from downgrading from Vista to XP. While they are right that vista was the first one to come out with all the new security and stuff, it is also bloated, plagued with problems(granted most of the worst ones were fixed with sp1), and generally not as user friendly as XP. Windows 7 is.

    A couple of examples:
    I installed Windows 7 on a dual P2 computer with 512mb of ram(very high end once upon a time) and it runs nicely.

    I tried to install a legacy app that did not work on vista. It didn’t work on windows 7 either, but after it failed to install the windows 7 troubleshooter asked me which was the last version of windows it worked on. I answered, and then it gave me a series of command line registry commands to run. Ran them all, and then my app installed perfectly.

  7. Adam Ruth 14 years ago

    It sounds like it’s mostly an issue of timing. I think from a technical standpoint, Windows 7 can be thought of as a refined Vista (not much more than a really big service pack).

    It seems to me that much of the timing issue is based on the bad timing problems of Vista. Based on what I’ve been learning about the beta for W7, those timing problems won’t affect W7 and the transition from XP to W7 will be no problem for most organisations.

  8. Simplify PC Solutions, I think many admins find it convenient to trust the Vista bashing articles, so they have a good excuse to skip Vista.

    James, Vista is not as user friendly as XP? This is easily said. Can you prove it too?

    Adam, I agree. Windows 7 is Vista SP2. Microsoft just didn’t make the system mistake as with Windows XP SP2 which obviously should have been Windows 6.5.

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