Windows 7: A New Opportunity for Managed Service Providers?

Microsoft plans to ship a Windows 7 release candidate this May, and Mary Jo Foley (the top blogger following Microsoft) suspects the completed Windows 7 will debut in the third calendar quarter of 2009. But I wonder: Will Windows Vista's successor drive new revenue opportunities for managed service providers? Or are Windows upgrades now ho-hum events for MSPs and VARs alike?

I tracked the birth of Windows NT and the rise of Windows 95 more than a decade ago for InformationWeek. Back then, Wintel software and hardware refreshes often propelled the entire IT channel forward. But I'm curious to see whether MSPs think Windows 7 represents a new financial opportunity. Hence, our latest weekly poll:

Improvements Over Windows Vista

I have to concede: I'm not sure what to make of Windows 7. To Microsoft's credit, early buzz about the operating system is upbeat. Windows 7 sounds like it's everything Windows Vista should have been -- slimmer, faster-loading, etc.

But I wonder: Will any businesses really "upgrade" their existing desktops and laptops to Windows 7? Or will Windows 7's success be limited to pre-installs on new hardware. I'm betting on the latter.

Microsoft Managed Services?

Meanwhile, I can't help but wonder if Windows 7 is the perfect excuse/opportunity for Microsoft to launch its own managed services platform. Remember, Microsoft more than a decade ago developed Systems Management Server (SMS) as a tool to help speed Windows NT and Windows 95 desktop deployments across large enterprises.

It's easy to image a similar strategy in the MSP market, this time designed to accelerate Windows 7 deployments. Microsoft back in November 2008 quietly hosted some focus groups involving an unannounced MSP-oriented product. But we're still digging around the company to see if such a product is forthcoming.

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