Is Intel Ready to Adopt Windows 7?

When Microsoft released Windows Vista nearly three years ago, it seemed only natural that the other half of the “Wintel” duopoly — Intel — would become an early adopter within a matter of months.

However, Microsoft Vista was buggy, sluggish, a resource hog, and initially many hardware peripherals wouldn’t work with it due to lack of device drivers. A majority of corporate IT departments decided to stay with Windows XP to this day.

Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) partner Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) was one of them. It eventually admitted it would not deploy Vista internally to its own employees.

Windows 7 appears to have changed that attitude.

“Intel IT plans to begin enterprise-wide deployment of Microsoft Windows 7 … in early 2010,” John Gonzalez, OS product line manager in Intel IT, said in a recently published report (PDF).

“As part of our evaluation, we deployed Microsoft Windows 7 beta on notebooks to 300 early users from different Intel groups including manufacturing, marketing, product groups, human resources, and IT. We surveyed these users to assess their experience,” Gonzalez said.

The feedback from users was almost unanimous — 97 percent said they would recommend Windows 7 to a colleague.

Ten percent, however, encountered problems that kept them from using the Windows 7 laptops as their primary computers — mostly due to application issues, the report said.

However, the testing was performed using the beta, the first round of public testing, which began in late January. Windows 7 went through two more rounds of bug fixing before it was released to manufacturing in July.

Intel IT, the report added, will deploy Windows 7 on new PCs as part of its standard refresh cycle, a step that several analysts have said will likely be the trigger that starts the movement to Windows 7.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has been out giving customers the hard sell in recent weeks, talking up Windows 7’s lower total cost of ownership (TCO) vis-à-vis Windows XP, the current standard for many companies.

Ford, Continental Airlines, and the City of Miami are among the corporate and governmental customers who have signed on so far to early adoption plans.

Intel is optimistic about TCO gains it hopes to achieve with Windows 7.

“A conservative total cost of ownership analysis estimated potential net present value of $11 million over three years, mainly due to lower support costs,” Gonzalez report said.

“We conducted lab tests to compare the performance of Microsoft Windows 7 and Microsoft Windows XP SP3 on a notebook PC with Intel vPro technology. Microsoft Windows 7 was more responsive when performing everyday tasks such as booting and launching productivity applications.”

The company plans to begin rolling out Windows 7 in the first quarter, and will continue to perform further testing in the meantime.

“During 2009, we plan to continue preparing for deployment by creating a Microsoft Windows 7 build and by installing the OS on systems in test labs to enable business groups to test applications and perform any necessary remediation,” the report said.

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