Windows 7 enterprise use rises as IE falls

Windows 7 enterprise use rises as IE falls

Internet Explorer feeling the heat, reports Forrester.

It's no secret that the past few years have been the era of the frozen IT budget. As the global economy went south in 2008, most enterprises went into belt-tightening mode. Now a thaw is beginning, according to a new report by research firm Forrester, as tech spending is set to increase and major corporate PC refreshes are scheduled for the next 12 to 18 months that will introduce a new operating system, productivity suite, browser and applications. While this is great news for Windows 7, it opens up a new set of challenges for the Internet Explorer browser.

Forrester anticipates that IT managers will begin major corporate PC refresh cycles by mid-to-late 2010. Enterprise-wide adoption of Windows 7 will likely occur at the same time, according to Forrester, as IT managers develop upgrade strategies, test their applications, and figure out if client virtualisation is part of their plans.

The Forrester report emphasises Windows 7's quick pace of adoption. Released on Oct. 22, 2009, Windows 7 is already powering 7.4 percent of corporate PCs, according to Forrester's analysis of 90,000 PCs across 2,500 different worldwide companies, which is a level Windows Vista did not reach until almost a year after its release.

From Q2 2009 to Q2 2010, Windows 7 usage by 81,000 Forrester enterprise clients jumped from 0 percent to 7.4 percent, while in the same period Windows XP usage dropped by 7 percent to 74.8 percent. Vista usage remained flat at 12.6 percent.

Yet despite rapid enterprise adoption of Windows 7, the Forrester study points out that the consumerization of IT and companies instilling BYOC (bring-your-own computer) programs has generated more interest in Macs within Windows environments. This is typically done through desktop virtualisation tools such as Apple's Boot Camp, VMware Fusion and Parallels.

Mac OS usage among Forrester enterprise clients grew slightly over the past year, from 3.7 percent to 4.0 percent.

With corporate browser usage, Microsoft faces a much bumpier road. Although Microsoft's Internet Explorer is still the leading browser at enterprises with 72.5 percent usage, it had a year-over-year drop of almost 5 percent according to Forrester's data. Mostly this is attributed to businesses that replaced Windows XP systems that had IE6 as the default browser and then chose to use Firefox or Chrome instead of IE8.

While IE's overall usage dropped among Forrester's clients, usage for Firefox increased by 3 percent to 20 percent of overall usage, and Chrome increased by 4.6 percent to 6.9 percent of overall usage. Safari usage declined by a full percentage point to 0.44 percent.

Forrester states that Firefox has gained ground because, "unlike with IE, Firefox users have quickly embraced new releases, with 17.6 percent of the market using Firefox 3.5, 2.1 percent using Firefox 3.0, and less than 1 percent still on Firefox 2.0."

Regarding Chrome, Forrester anticipates that the browser will continue its slow climb in the enterprise as devices like netbooks flourish and European consumers are made aware of IE alternatives because of Microsoft's settlement with the European Commission.

Forrester advises that IT managers upgrading to Windows 7 make sure that web applications are compatible with IE8, given that it is the required version of the new operating system. The research firm also recommends that businesses upgrading to Windows 7 invest in application virtualisation to ensure that legacy applications such as IE6 and older versions of Office still work without conflicting with other applications.

Microsoft released Windows 7 six months ago and reports selling over 100 million licenses worldwide. Net Applications figures for April 2010 show that Windows 7 machines account for 11.68 percent of the total global fleet with the closest non-Windows operating system holding a 5.32 percent share, says Microsoft NZ in a press statement.

Ben Green, head of Microsoft’s Windows Business Group in New Zealand, says local figures appear to be mirroring this global trend. Green says at TradeMe, one of the country’s busiest website, nearly 10 percent of visitors during the month of March were using Windows 7.

This is a phenomenal uptake for such a short time in the market, says Green. Microsoft NZ says one user is NorthTec, a post-secondary education provider in Whangarei and listed as one of the top ICT using organisations in New Zealand in the MIS100. The school has more than 15,000 students, 10 campuses, 60 community teaching areas and 500 employees. NorthTec CIO Xiaohui Xu says Windows 7 encourages students to employ PCs as a learning tool, which he says, is a key part of the school’s mission. With additional reporting from CIO NZ

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