Windows 7 SP 1: You Don't Need to Wait
The beta for Windows 7 SP1 is available now, but Windows 7 is already ready to go.
If your business is like many, you've been waiting for Windows 7 SP1 before even thinking about moving from Windows XP to Windows 7. But with Windows 7, you haven't really needed to do that. Out of the box, Windows 7 was ready to go.
Mind you, I say that as someone with little love for Windows. I think Linux makes a better desktop. That said, if you're sticking with Windows and there was some reason to avoid moving to Windows 7, I'd be the first to say so. Instead, I find myself agreeing with Michael Silver, a research director in Gartner's client computing group, who said, "The first Service Pack for Windows 7 is not necessary for the operating system's stability and security readiness."
[ See also: Steve Ballmer as emoticons ]
Indeed, if you look closely at the Windows 7 SP1 beta, which I have (and you can download the Windows 7 SP1 beta here), you'll see that - unlike, say, the jump from Windows XP SP 2 to Windows XP SP3 - this is not a significant upgrade. Indeed, Windows 7 SP1 is nothing more than a round-up of previous fixes already delivered through Windows Update.
Before every computer in the world was hooked up to the Internet, this kind of service patch was a big deal. I'm sure many of you recall as well as I do just how important the Windows NT SP3 was. To my mind, this was the update that made Windows NT usable, because it bundled up so many of the minor and major fixes that came before. Now, if you have a Windows PC attached to a network that hasn't been kept up to date with its security fixes, it's almost certainly filled to the brim with malware.
That said, SP1 or not, however, there's no compelling reason to move from Windows XP SP3. If Windows XP works for your office, there's no feature in Windows 7 that makes it significantly better than Windows XP.
You won't be alone. Microsoft just extended Windows XP SP3's life until, believe it or not, 2020. I strongly suspect Microsoft has done that because businesses had said in no, uncertain terms, that they're not interested in moving from XP.
But if your office is also moving, or has moved, to Windows Server 2008 R2, I think Windows 7 is worth the upgrade. The combination of Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 is stronger than either one separately. In particular, their network features work together hand-in-glove.
Thus, moving to Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 is a good idea, if--and this is an important if--you're moving to new PCs. While it is quite possible to upgrade machines from XP to Windows 7, your hardware isn't likely to have the horsepower you need to run Windows 7 at speed. Your Vista PCs, if you have any, are likely candidates for in-place upgrades.
I've been using Windows 7 now since its early beta days, and I've yet to find a mainstream business program such as Microsoft Office, OpenOffice, or QuickBooks that doesn't work just fine on it. Windows 7 SP1 isn't going to change that one iota. If I did have a problem, I could try Windows 7's built-in XP virtualization to run them in a virtual machine. I don't expect I'll ever need to do that at this point.
In short, there are no technical reasons to wait for Windows 7. Of course, you may need to wait because of business political realities. If your company, once burned and twice-shy after the Vista fiasco, won't pull the trigger on a migration until Windows 7 SP1 is out, your wait is almost over.
So, if I can't talk you into Linux, and you still want to move to Windows 7, now is the time to start the heavy lifting on your Windows 7 migration plan. After all, Windows 7 SP1 may be out as soon as the 4th quarter of 2010.