On the other hand, adoption levels of Windows Vista from Microsoft Corp., the Redmond, Wash., software giant, were low enough that the coming of Windows 7 was highly anticipated. Would it be good enough to move corporations away from Windows XP—an OS admittedly growing long in the tooth?
Initial figures suggest that this software upgrade is good enough to motivate corporate information technology (IT) managers to make the change. According to research conducted by International Data Corporation (IDC), a global provider of market intelligence, advisory services and events for the IT market, more than 177 million copies of Windows 7 should be in place worldwide by the end of 2010, including more than 60 million in the United States.
For example, Microsoft reports that diversified manufacturing company 3M Corp. has deployed Windows 7 to nearly 7,000 of its 75,000 employees, and plans a complete rollout over the next three years with the stated goal of boosting employee productivity while making IT resources more efficient.
3M needed an operating system that allowed its employees to be productive, while at the same time tightening network security and reducing costs of PC management. Since deployment, 3M management reports a sizeable decrease in computer start-up time, greater ease in navigating on the company's computers at work, advanced data protection and a lower cost of compliance. In addition, the new operating system deployment has enabled a shift in how 3M employees view the company's IT efforts.
"Before we even started our system upgrade, a growing number of our employees already had Windows 7 on their home computers," says 3M Director of Global IT Infrastructure John Turner. "Once they saw how much easier Windows 7 is to use in their personal lives, they wanted to see those same improvements on the job as well. With Windows 7, we have seen increases in performance and improved user experience. PC start-up time has decreased by 10 percent vs. our legacy Windows platform."
Rich Reynolds, general manager for the Windows Commercial Group at Microsoft, says, "We know we've succeeded when a world-class company like 3M tells us they're saving money, improving security and improving employee satisfaction with Windows 7."
Windows 7 is designed to enable a mobile world by breaking down barriers among devices, enabling people to stay connected. A larger, customizable taskbar with previews enables easier navigation. Users get to tasks faster with jump lists—intuitive ways to arrange windows. Power-saving enhancements are designed to increase battery life on laptops.
BitLocker and Problem Step Recorder are ways that Microsoft has improved reliability of the OS. In order to prevent valuable data from being lost or stolen when you use Windows 7, you can encrypt and secure your data using a feature called BitLocker-To-Go. It allows you to set restrictions such as a password or Smart Card as a first line of defense against lost or stolen USB drives. The Problem Step Recorder function allows you to record the steps you are taking that are producing an error message. The recorder takes video of your screen and lets you create the clip as a file that can be saved and sent to either Microsoft or your office's IT support team. Finally, Windows 7 takes a step into the future that is actually already well established in other environments, by enabling touch computing.
Almost all manufacturing software these days is built upon a Microsoft Windows foundation. Keeping up with Redmond has become an essential task. Based on early adoption, corporations are optimistic about the new features.
Gary Mintchell, firstname.lastname@example.org, is Editor in Chief of Automation World.
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