Executive Summary:
Although IT expenditures will remain relatively flat next year, almost 60 percent of Windows IT Pro readers plan to deploy Windows 7 in 2010.

Microsoft’s three-way product launch this fall of Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, and Exchange Server 2010 is a refreshing burst of activity in an otherwise stagnant product launch year. But talking about a product, getting a demo about a product, or even craving a product isn’t the same as actually buying a product. (Probably only Windows 7 stirs any emotion remotely resembling a craving.)

According to our recent independently conducted audience research, as the economically painful 2009 winds to a close, businesses will continue to hold tight to their cash. New technology whose primary benefit is the cool factor isn’t high on any IT manager’s shopping list unless keeping his or her job also isn’t top on the list. All of the future efficiencies promised by new technology will be seriously weighed against turning in decent business performance this last quarter. But that doesn’t mean we all can’t do a little window shopping for 2010 purchases that will achieve some efficiency benefits. The problem is finding the clear-cut efficiencies that will really make a difference in the short term.

Deployment Plans
The clear winner among our readers in the plan-to-deploy race is Windows 7. Among our print, email, and web audience, about 58 percent of respondents indicated that they plan to deploy Windows 7 in 2010. Favorite Windows 7 features that are driving this anticipation include faster boot times, an improved UI, and the Windows XP mode (yes, there is irony in that last one). For Paul Thurrott’s discussion of the Windows 7 launch and some audience reaction to the release, check out “Windows 7 Will Set Industry Afire.” Interestingly, even the promise of excising Vista isn’t enough for some of our readers to jump on Windows 7, primarily because they never deployed Vista in the first place.

Server 2008 R2 shows decent potential for deployment in 2010 as well. Only about 48 percent of our audience currently has Server 2008 running somewhere in the organization. A little over half of respondents indicated plans to deploy Server 2008 R2 in 2010. But for those who are squeamish about deployment, the admittedly intriguing features such as the 64-bit capability make the decision even tougher. Cash-strapped companies that don’t already have 64-bit hardware are going to have to wait. The new Live Migration feature that lets you move Hyper-V virtual machines (VMs) between hosts with no downtime is great. But most of our readers who are currently using virtualization technology already have VMware implementations in place. (For Michael Otey’s quick picks of the most compelling Server 2008 R2 features, check out “New Features in Windows Server 2008 R2.”

The statistics regarding Exchange Server migration tell the classic if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it story. About 46 percent of our audience uses Exchange Server 2003. Only about 33 percent of respondents have deployed Exchange Server 2007. And only about 32 percent of our audience plans to deploy Exchange 2010 within six months after release. For those who have taken a look at Exchange 2010, the winning features are built-in email archiving and Database Availability Groups (DAGs) for improved high availability. But of those readers who have no plans to upgrade, the top reasons cited for holding tight to previous versions are that they’re unconvinced about the benefits of migrating, they don’t have the budget, or it’s simply been too soon since their last upgrade. And forget about unified communications (UC) driving adoption: Less than 8 percent of our audience have deployed any form of UC. According to comments gathered in our Instant Polls, most readers see UC as too expensive and too complicated. In fact, a recent Instant Poll asking about Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS) adoption elicited the most votes for the response, “What the heck is OCS?” For basic Exchange Server migrations, the angst is real as many organizations struggle with when and how to move from Exchange 2003, which has been quietly and relatively seamlessly serving up email in organizations for years. Paul Robichaux offers some excellent advice in “Exchange 2007 Now or Exchange 2010 Later?

Hats Off to Windows 7
So as we put the wrapper on this decidedly underwhelming IT buying year, let’s all give a little salute to Windows 7 for causing some checkbooks to come out of the drawer. For most companies, IT purchases for 2010 must show immediate and compelling bottom-line savings. Bells and whistles, anyone? I didn’t think so.