Gartner: If You’re On XP, Get Off Now

IT organizations should get hustling on their Windows 7 rollout
planning and testing and be off Windows XP by the end of 2012 due to
third-party vendors abandoning the creaky old operating system at a
rapid rate, according to IT research firm Gartner.

While Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) said it would support Windows XP
through 2014, third-party software and hardware vendors are under no
such generous support plan and are already dumping XP, which first
shipped in 2001, according to Gartner.

“I’ve spoken to a customer who couldn’t get drivers for certain
products already,” said Steve Kleynhans, research vice president at
Gartner. “They had some unique circumstances, but the shift is already
starting to happen. We expect by 2012 any new piece of hardware you buy
is unlikely to come with a full set of drivers for XP.”

Various Gartner polls and surveys showed 80 percent of respondents
skipped the much-maligned Windows Vista and will go straight to Windows
7, which shipped in October 2009. Microsoft plans to begin be
ta testing its first service pack for Windows 7
this summer, and
traditionally, firms have waited for the first service pack before
deploying a new Microsoft operating system.

But Kleynhans said don’t wait for that, either.

“Our advice has been don’t wait for service pack. At least to get
started with all your testing. That would be wasting a year. Companies
need to get started on testing, and when SP1 ships, slipstream it in,”
he said.

Also, customers need to realize that the time when service packs were
needed has passed. Before, a service pack was a roll-up of fixes
Microsoft had issued after the release of the operating system. But
since the early days of Windows 2000 and Windows XP, Microsoft now has
its monthly “Patch Tuesday” cycle as well as emergency fixes when

“You have to be accepting of the fact your OS is in constant update
and you don’t have to wait for the service pack to come out with fixes,”
said Kleynhans.

Windows 7 was well-received throughout its beta cycle and started
strong out of the gate when it shipped in October 2009. Since then adop
tion has been quite brisk
, owing to pent-up demand and many people
holding off on purchasing a system with Windows Vista on it.

Nine months after its release, most customers have kicked the tires
on Windows 7 at this point and are pretty comfortable with the operating
system itself. The bigger issue is beyond the operating system.
Customers need to test their apps, peripherals and other connected
devices in their infrastructure, and that takes time.

Often companies introduce a new OS through replacement of old
systems, and while the major hardware vendors have pointed out
repeatedly that there is lots of old hardware out there, waiting for
equipment to break likely won’t get a company migrated to Windows 7 in
the 18 months Gartner has recommended.

As conversions go, Gartner has found that customers are making the
transition surprisingly smoothly for the most part, Kleynhans reports.

“That’s not to say there aren’t issues, there are issues,” he said.
“But a lot of the issues customers are coming upon they are able to work
through with compatibility tools that are available. They are finding a
lot of software and hardware vendors were much better prepared for
Windows 7 than they were for previous releases of the OS.”

Gartner is also finding about an even split between whether customers
will go for 32-bit or 64-bit Windows 7. The only real difference between
the two is addressable memory; the 32-bit version can’t address more
than 4GB of memory while 64-bit can address far more than any desktop PC
can hold. Kleynhans said it is early and most firms have not made a
final decision, but Gartner does offer guidance in this area.

“What we’ve been telling customers is unless they’re going really
quickly, like this month, then they should probably be planning for
64-bit and look for reasons why they can’t do it, and fall back to
32-bit if they have to. Most companies I talk to seem to be taking that
approach,” he said.

Andy Patrizio is a senior editor at, the news
service of, the
network for technology professionals.