Microsoft Targets SMBs In Windows 7 Full-Court Press

Many SMBs are more concerned with keeping the lights on these days than they are about deploying Windows 7. But Microsoft (NSDQ:MSFT) wants SMBs to know that moving from Windows XP to Windows 7 will yield immediate productivity benefits that quickly translate into cost savings.At a press event in New York last week held in conjunction with the Windows 7 launch, Microsoft brought out several SMB partners from its Windows 7 Small Business Ignite Program to talk about the advantages of moving to Windows 7.

Microsoft hasn’t said much about the shadowy Small Business Ignite Programother than that it launched in March and gave small businesses a chance to test out the Windows 7 Beta with guidance from Microsoft VARs.

Rich Reynolds, general manager of Windows commercial marketing at Microsoft, said the program, combined with data from the 1 billion end-user sessions that were sent back to Microsoft during the Windows 7 testing period, gave Microsoft vast insight into how SMBs can use Windows 7 to run their businesses more effectively.

“SMB is a key segment for us,” said Reynolds. “It’s a very diverse segment with a lot of opportunities and potential.”

Windows 7 features dramatically faster startup and shutdown speeds, and this frees up time for more important business-related tasks, Reynolds said. “SMBs want to focus on running their businesses, and not the technology, which is why startup and shutdown times are so important,” he said.

Industry analyst Roger Kay of Endpoint Technology Associates said Windows 7’s improved performance can bring immediate cost savings. “There are a thousand tiny things that save you two seconds every day,” Kay said. Windows 7’s simplified user interface also enables users to find files more quickly, he added.

After the Windows Vista debacle, application compatibility in Windows 7 is still a fear for many SMBs. Microsoft has pitched XP Mode as a solution for SMBs that have been running older or custom-built applications, and XP Mode maintains backward compatibility with legacy apps through a virtual Windows XP SP3 environment running under Windows Virtual PC.

Stephen Hall, CEO of District Computers, a Microsoft Gold partner in Silver Spring, Md., said his customers have come to view Windows XP Mode as a suitable safety net for moving to Windows 7. “Since Microsoft released Windows 7 to businesses on Sept. 1, we’ve been doing deployments every weekend and are booked solid through the end of the year,” Hall said.

Microsoft also has addressed the fears that many SMBs have about the time involved in installing Windows 7. Microsoft isn’t providing a direct XP-to-Windows 7 upgrade path, and has taken some heat for what is apparently a conscious decision on its part. However, Microsoft has greatly streamlined the Windows 7 installation process, according to Carl Mazzanti, vice president of eMazzanti Technologies, a Hoboken, N.J.-based solution provider.

“This is the first time we’ve had customers calling us to ask questions about how to roll out a new Windows release, and that includes home users that want to upgrade,” Mazzanti said.

Microsoft recognizes that the legions of SMBs that have been using Windows XP for years, and paid off that investment long ago, are going to be a tough sell for Windows 7. By highlighting Windows 7’s performance improvements, Microsoft is dangling a carrot that may prove irresistible for companies that are sick of running their businesses on an eight-year-old operating system.

By Kevin McLaughlin, ChannelWeb

To learn more, contact us today.