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Gartner: Large businesses shouldn't skip Vista

Companies planning to wait for successor Windows 7 may face support issues and a rushed migration, research firm warns.

Planning to skip Windows Vista altogether, waiting for Microsoft's next operating system?

For some companies, it's a tempting option, but they need to consider it carefully, or they could end up feeling some pain down the line, according to analyst group Gartner.

Gartner said companies have "significantly delayed" the start of their Windows Vista migrations, with most planning to begin deployment in late 2008 or even 2009, making some think of skipping Vista altogether.

But Gartner research vice president Michael Silver has warned that the next version of Windows, code-named "Windows 7," may also suffer from the delays that dogged Vista and be just as difficult to adopt.

"Organizations that tried to skip Windows 98, Windows 2000, and Windows XP often had ISV (independent software vendor) support issues, and a difficult and rushed or forced migration. Organizations that try to skip Windows Vista are likely to undergo the same perils," the Gartner research warned.

For example, while Microsoft will support business versions of Windows for at least 10 years, and Windows XP is expected to be supported with security fixes until 2014, many software vendors won't support their products on Windows XP for that long, nor will they support new versions of their software on older operating systems.

For Windows XP, software suppliers will probably start dropping support in early 2010 and, by 2012, it will be common for software vendors not to support Windows XP for their new versions or applications.

Gartner also warned that, while Microsoft said it would deliver Windows 7 about three years after Vista shipped, "Microsoft's track record for shipping new versions of Windows is not good." The research firm pointed to the delays of both Windows 2000 and Vista.

If the next version of Windows--likely to be a fairly major release--ships late, then companies trying to skip Vista will end up running large numbers of Windows XP PCs longer than they would like, and are likely to be forced to adopt Windows 7 before their vendors all support it.

For companies struggling to build a business case for upgrading to Vista, the analyst house suggested bringing in the new operating system on new hardware only--which means it could take a three- or four-year hardware replacement cycle to eliminate an old operating system and bring in a new one.

But Gartner also said skipping Windows Vista might be the right decision for smaller organizations because they don't have the scale to support multiple operating systems on an ongoing basis, making a full-scale "forklift" migration project more efficient.

Gartner also advised that larger organizations with lots of in-house developed applications should consider forklift deployments, because their developers would be responsible for supporting all homegrown applications on multiple operating systems, which would "greatly increase application development costs."

Steve Ranger of reported from London.