Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is warning IT organizations that they risk provoking an end user backlash if they don't move off the Windows XP operating system.
"If you deploy a four or five-year old operating system today, most people will ask their boss why the heck they don't have the stuff they have at home," the Microsoft CEO said.
In an interview at an event to mark the extension of Microsoft's collaboration with EMC to help IT professionals improve virtualisation, security and content management, Ballmer touched on the progress of Windows 7.
He stressed that its faster performance, longer battery life and simplified security settings will be "a pretty good step forward in terms of what users care about."
For these reasons and others, Ballmer warned that, enterprises that stick with Windows XP too long risk complaints from impatient users who have been using newer computers running Vista and Windows 7 at home.
Microsoft recently revealed that it will move directly from beta 1 of Windows 7 to release candidate, implying a quicker release of the new OS than initially expected. Additionally, Microsoft announced yesterday that it will issue discounted upgrade licenses to customers moving from Windows XP to Windows 7.
Ballmer did say that it is too early in Windows 7's lifespan to "start beating the big drum," but emphasised that ease-of-use is a priority, particularly in "some of the improvements made in Vista on security." This is arguably a reference to the UAC pop-up security feature in Vista that has drawn ire from users for being annoying and inflexible.
In Windows 7, the UAC setting can be controlled by the user. For instance, the user can set UAC for "always notify me" at the most conservative level or "never notify me" if they don't want to use UAC. There are two moderate options in between that will notify users only about certain changes that take place on their computers.
According to a recent report by Forrester, Windows Vista is now powering just fewer than 10 percent of all PCs within enterprises in North America and Europe.
Nevertheless an uptick in Vista use may be on the horizon, as the report also states that 31 percent of IT decision-makers said they are beginning migrations to Windows Vista.
Ballmer admitted that compatibility issues have held Vista back. But he adds that they were a necessary evil in order for Vista to break new ground on security.
"Our enterprise customers basically are pretty happy with what we did with Windows Vista, with one notable exception, which we needed to do to improve security, which was to break compatibility," Ballmer says.
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