What's the best operating system for businesses? If you were to ask Microsoft, you'd probably expect them to preach the virtues of the company's upcoming Windows 8 operating system, which arrives later this year on both PCs and tablets.
But for enterprises still running Redmond's antiquated Windows XP OS, Windows 7 is the logical upgrade--at least according to a new whitepaper written by analyst firm IDC and sponsored by Microsoft.
(Disclaimer: PCWorld and IDC are both owned by the same parent company, IDG.)
The whitepaper, titled "Mitigating Risk: Why Sticking with Windows XP is a Bad Idea," is the latest step in Microsoft's ongoing crusade to driving a stake through XP's eternally beating heart.
So what's the report say? Pretty much what you'd expect.
"IDC found that the base IT and end user labor costs of continuing to support Windows XP is now approximately five times as much as the cost of running Windows 7," writes Microsoft's Erwin Visser in a May 24 post on The Windows Blog.
Yes, but how does Windows 8, with its radically redesigned Metro interface, fit into the business-upgrade cycle?
Visser writes that "migrating now to Windows 7 will set businesses up well to embrace Windows 8 in the future, as IDC found that all indications at this time are that the move from Windows 7 to Windows 8 will be seamless for applications and non-impactful to existing hardware."
Another possible scenario: Businesses bypass Windows 8 altogether and wait for Windows 9 a few years down the road, particularly if the benefits of moving from Win 7 to Win 8 aren't worth the expense and hassle of upgrading.
Windows XP is slowly being supplanted by Windows 7, but not as quickly as Microsoft would like. According to analytics firm Net Applications, Windows XP had a 46 percent share of all desktop operating systems in April 2012, while Windows 7 had just under 39 percent.
Microsoft will end support for XP in April 2014, a deadline that Redmond hopes will spur its enterprise customers to finally drop the aging OS.
For now, Windows 7 is the upgrade path of choice--and may very well remain so even after Windows 8 ships.