Reality Check: Top 10 Benefits of Windows 7

Microsoft is warming up its marketing machine for Windows 7. An example: The software giant is telling channel partners Windows 7 Professional offers 10 key benefits to small and midsize businesses. But are those benefits the real deal? The VAR Guy offers a reality check.

The VAR Guy

May 20, 2009

6 Min Read
Reality Check: Top 10 Benefits of Windows 7

Microsoft is warming up its marketing machine for Windows 7. An example: The software giant is telling channel partners Windows 7 Professional offers 10 key benefits to small and midsize businesses. But are those benefits the real deal? The VAR Guy offers a reality check.

First, The VAR Guy offers up Microsoft’s top 10 benefit claims. Then, he’ll offer some personal perspectives.

01. An operating system that works the way your customers want:

Microsoft’s claim: Customers have asked for value and innovation. Windows 7 Professional improves on the fundamentals, while delivering the latest in mobility and user experience. It’s fast, stable, and compatible—with both third-party applications and third-party devices. Customers get an operating system that meets the advanced needs of their businesses and they get to keep working with the applications and devices they use today.

The VAR Guy’s perspective: Hmmm. Fast and stable. Apple and Linux certainly offer that, and have done so for years. But assuming Windows 7 is truly “compatible” with all of those legacy hardware and software components, Microsoft may have some bragging rights here.

02. A SKU lineup that’s easy to understand and sell.

Microsoft’s claim: The simplified SKU lineup of Windows 7 is easy for customers to understand—and easier for you to sell. With no more complex choices between editions, you can easily make recommendations to your customers. If they need a PC for work, they should select Windows 7 Professional. If the PC is only for home use, Home Premium is the option. And because all Windows 7 editions simply offer a more complete set of features than the edition before, there’s no need to know all of the features.

The VAR Guy’s reaction: Yes, Windows 7’s SKU lineup is easier to understand than the extended Windows Vista lineup. But the Windows 7 release designed for netbooks only runs three applications simultaneously. Plus, Apple still has a far easier SKU lineup to follow: You can purchase Mac OS, Mac OS … or some more Mac OS.

03. A cost-effective, simple installation process.

Microsoft’s claim: In response to original equipment manufacturer (OEM) feedback, Windows 7 Professional will be delivered as a single image;* separate images are not needed for each edition or SKU. This simplifies your installation process and can help speed up customer order fulfillment. In addition, new deployment tools have been designed to increase flexibility, speed, and efficiency in product development, helping to reduce costs. The result: OEMs will need to service fewer edition-based images.

The VAR Guy’s reaction: If Windows 7 is so cost effective, how come Dell is concerned about Microsoft’s pricing for Windows 7 compared to Windows Vista and Windows XP?

04. Partner opportunities for offering Windows XP Mode.

Microsoft’s claim: Windows XP Mode provides the flexibility to run many older Windows XP productivity applications in a virtual Windows XP environment. Customers benefit by being able to use the productivity applications they’ve already invested in, while not having to worry about potential operational downtime as they switch systems. A great feature, Windows XP Mode is only in Windows 7 Professional and above, and is only available either through OEM preinstallation or postpurchase installation.** This provides you with potential new service opportunities when customers move from their old PCs to new ones.

The VAR Guy’s Reaction – Wait a minute. In claim #1, Microsoft stated that Windows 7 offered compatibility. Does it or doesn’t it?

05. An opportunity to offer high-value recurring services.

Microsoft Claim: The release of Windows 7 Professional provides an opportunity to both upgrade your customers’ software or hardware and deliver IT-related services such as setting up data backup, configuring hardware and accessories, and optimizing network settings. Based on your customers’ unique needs as well as your service offerings, partner opportunities exist to help customers with deployment, mobility solutions, and more.

The VAR Guy’s Reaction: All of those claims are true for current Windows releases. Managed Service Providers already generate recurring revenue by offering data backup and network monitoring.

06. The increased potential to offer a broad set of PCs.

Microsoft’s claim: Windows 7 Professional has been optimized to work well on many different hardware specifications. This gives you the opportunity to offer customers a range of PCs targeted toward what makes the most sense for their businesses. It also provides flexibility for you to recommend different options that are based on the budgetary needs of your customers.

The VAR Guy’s reaction: It’s hard to argue with Microsoft here. Yes, the entire PC industry (excluding Apple and some Linux advocates) will line up to sell low-end, mid-tier and high-end Windows 7 PCs. Sure, Linux is available on a range of devices. But let’s be honest. Many customers still aren’t ready for Linux.

07. Increased flexibility in meeting your customers’ needs.

Microsoft’s claim: Windows 7 Professional offers broad customization capabilities. You have the flexibility to customize your customers’ PC experiences with prominent placement for your value-added software and hardware—a great feature not available in Windows XP.

The VAR Guy’s reaction: This isn’t an innovation. It’s a sign of Microsoft finally waking up the real world. In the 1990s, Microsoft didn’t let anyone customize the Windows user experience. Anyone else remember how Microsoft tried to remove AOL and Netscape icons from most PC desktops?

08. A modern operating system for today’s businesses.

Microsoft’s claim: How people buy, use, and experience technology has changed dramatically since Windows XP shipped in 2001. While Windows XP was a great operating system almost a decade ago, you can now provide a better option for business customers who need PCs that reflect today’s business environment. This includes delivering the fundamentals of performance and improved battery life; fast startup, shutdown, and resume from Standby; advanced search and indexing; and sophisticated networking capabilities. For businesses that have been running Windows XP, Windows 7 Professional presents a great partner opportunity to help them update their systems.

The VAR Guy’s reaction: Actually, the market HASN’T changed. Users have always wanted fast startup, shutdown and resume. Microsoft simply failed to deliver those capabilities on Windows Vista. That’s why millions of users embraced Mac OS X and Linux. Even worse, Microsoft pushed Vista on low-end hardware. So please, Redmond: Don’t tell users that their needs have changed. Instead, admit that Microsoft is finally meeting the basic needs that users have always had.

09. Customer demand for Windows 7.

Microsoft’s claim: Starting with the initial Beta release onward, Windows 7 has received high praise from industry experts, top-name bloggers, and everyday users—which means early market demand you can capitalize on.

The VAR Guy’s reaction: Give Microsoft credit. The early word on Windows 7 is positive. But will that drive immediate Windows 7 demand? Too soon to say.

10. Microsoft marketing investment around the launch of Windows 7.

Microsoft’s claim: Extend the reach of your own marketing dollars by leveraging the campaigns, marketing resources, sales tools, and trainings that are being rolled out for the Windows 7 launch.

The VAR Guy’s reaction: No debate here. The Linux crowd could learn a lot from Microsoft’s marketing and channel partner initiatives.

Bottom Line: No doubt, the early word on Windows 7 is positive. And there’s a massive, loyal IT channel ready to take Windows 7 to market.

But there are also plenty of VARs and customers who still feel burned by Windows Vista. And Dell certainly caused a stir by raising concerns about Windows 7 pricing.

Windows Vista proved that Microsoft upgrades are no longer guaranteed successes. With Windows 7, the term of the day is cautious optimism.

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