One of the most powerful uses of the Internet is that it allows a lot of people to weigh in on important topics and it provides food for thought in terms of making decisions around such discussions. The downside, of course, is that if you ask 10 different people the same question, you may get 12 different answers.
Case in point: I recently posted a response on a LinkedIn discussion chain that asked, “Which Version of Windows are You Running – XP, Vista or Windows 7 – and Why?” Most of the people being asked seem to have at least some connection to IT, so you would think there would be some homogeneity of responses. You would be thinking wrong, however.
A number of respondents said they were either running or implementing Windows 7, the newest Microsoft OS, citing its efficiency, user friendliness, and better security features. Others, like me, said they were using Vista and were having no problems with it. Many reported that they were sticking with XP (now nine years old), citing the fact that it had proven to be a robust platform over the years—and that it is still supported by Microsoft, at least for the moment. Still others felt just fine about using both XP and Vista in their shops, while questioning why they should move to another platform when these two were working just fine.
The problem here is that all of these responses make sense—depending on where your enterprise sits in the replace-recycle continuum. It is important to remember that the question being asked is not “Which Windows OS is the best?” Rather, this is a peek at the reality of actual use in real companies. Ultimately—especially in a really lousy economy—the decision about using an OS will have much more to do with not fixing something that ain’t broke than it will seeking out the newest and best features.
Thus, it is no surprise that many (and I wouldn’t be surprised if insurers were among this group) are continuing with XP until they have squeezed the last drop of utility from that OS. That’s fine, as long as your boxes are not so aged that their best use may be as boat anchors. XP users, I would contend, are people who bought, customized and updated the OS years ago and are content with its performance.
When the times comes to replace hardware, however, XP—while still available—will be looked at in a different light. Since the new boxes will come standard with Windows 7, the decision now involves which OS will give you the most for your dollar. Thus, it is also no surprise that those whose computer replacement cycle coincided roughly with the release of Windows 7 are trumpeting the virtues of the newest OS. From most accounts, Windows 7 is being well received and it may even come to rival XP in terms of popularity.
Meanwhile, Vista users like myself are, I would guess, folks who replaced machines before the Windows 7 announcement. To be sure, some of those users opted for XP, but a sizeable number still went with Vista, which also offers better search capabilities and tighter security than XP. Windows 7 may look good to us Vista users now, but by and large we are not going to upgrade unless we are really dissatisfied, and clearly many of us are not.
It’s great fun to debate the features of the versions, and to be sure, each version has its own warts. When it comes down to spending cold hard cash, however, the number one question insurers and others in our industry have to ask is whether what we have now is working well. If so, the second consideration is how long we expect that situation to continue. The final factor is to attempt to forecast what we will need in terms of an OS down the road when our old one has outlived its competitive usefulness.
So, hardware replacement cycles being what they are every three years or so, we can expect that even the wildly popular XP will diminish in use as time goes on. After all, when was the last time you heard from a user who was nostalgic for Windows 98?
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