Q&A: Why Windows 7 SP1 is a "total non-event"

Rich Reynolds

Microsoft's general manager tells Jack Schofield why Windows 7 has put the Vista nightmare to rest

Microsoft's Windows 7 has taken over the consumer PC market, but the business market still belongs to Windows XP. Rich Reynolds, Microsoft's general manager for Windows commercial marketing, aims to change that.

Reynolds studied marketing at the University of Lancaster and joined Microsoft in the UK in 1990, before spending 12 years in Canada. He moved to Redmond about five years ago.

We talked to him at Microsoft's Customer Centre in London.

Q. Windows 7 sold 240 million copies in its first year, so presumably you're pleased with how it's going?

A. It's the most successful operating system we've ever released, whichever dimension you look at. Our internal statistics show that Windows 7 is being adopted at least twice as fast as XP and at least three times faster than Vista. There are very rapid deployments on both the business side and the consumer side. Nobody's waiting for Service Pack 1. Usually there's this big deal about SP1, but this time it's a total non-event.

Some of the pain of Windows Vista was of benefit with Windows 7

Q. Windows XP is no longer on sale but presumably your 240m includes PCs running XP using downgrade rights?

A. Yes, it's 240m licences sold. Another statistic from NetApplications shows that 17% of PCs are running Windows 7. If there are 1.2 billion PCs, that's about 200 million PCs.

Q. Were there any mistakes made with the launch, where you'd go back and do it differently?

A. No, we're very pleased with the launch in every single dimension.

We learned a lot from the Vista rollout and we applied it to Windows 7. For example, we were very careful to make sure we didn't disclose anything related to the product unless we knew we were going to deliver it as part of the product. And because customers had challenges with Vista, we spent a lot of time on best practices and tools, and that naturally carried forward to Windows 7. Some of the pain of Windows Vista was of benefit with Windows 7.

Q. Do you get people saying that Windows 7 is more like another version of Vista?

A. No, not at all. I'd heard people criticising Vista, but when I talked to them, 99% of the time, they didn't use it. People who used Vista actually liked it, particularly after SP1. The UI benefits, the speed and performance of Windows 7 mean people are viewing it as a new operating system, which it is.

Q. What's driving Windows 7's adoption?

A. The consistent feedback I get is that really there are two things. One is this end-user enthusiasm, so in a sense, the "consumerisation of IT" is working in our favour. Windows 7 users get a lot of value from it.

The second thing is its great IT value: enhanced security and single-image management, virtualisation (XP Mode and MED-V) and so on.
We've released TCO [Total Cost of Ownership] studies with Baker Tilly, BAA, the city of Stockholm, and National Instruments, and on average they're saying they can save about $140 per PC per year in TCO.

We've packaged best practices in what we call Jumpstart offerings.
They cover things like pilots, image creation, application compatibility, application virtualisation and so on, so you can have a very solid plan.

Q. Are companies clinging to IE6 proving much of a barrier to adoption?

A. It varies from customer to customer, obviously. Our experience is that it's either super-easy or it's very hard. It's kind of binary.

What we find is that the fear is worse than the reality, if they use some of the deployment tools and methodologies we've provided, and some of the virtualisation technologies. It's almost ten years since some customers have done this kind of thing, so they're using the transition to rationalise and reduce the number of apps they're using. Boeing reduced them from 11,000 to about 7,000.

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