A Gartner analyst has warned that organisations should prepare for the end of support for Windows 7 to avoid the fiasco they encountered when Microsoft ended support for XP.
Gartner research VP Stephen Kleynhans said early preparation for the end of support will keep CIOs and endpoint computing managers avoid the issues organisations faced last time.
"Microsoft recently ended support for Windows XP and even though the end date was set in 2007 based on a life cycle support policy Microsoft introduced in 2004, many organisations were not able to completely eliminate the OS by the deadline," Kleynhans said.
"Nearly a quarter of PCs in organisations were still running Windows XP after support ended, leaving IT to figure out how to secure Windows XP and/or find funding to do so.
"The end of support for Windows 7 will be January, 2020, assuming there are no changes to its current support life cycle. While this feels like it's a long way off, organisations must start planning now, so they can prevent a recurrence of what happened with Windows XP."
Kleynhans predicts that Microsoft could end support for Windows 7 when it will ship its next version of Windows OS currently being developed under codename "Windows Threshold".
He has suggested that those companies, which have already installed Windows 8 PCs and plan to go for Windows 8.1 Update 1, should not shy away from deploying new devices with the OS.
But by the time companies go for a broader roll out of Windows 8.1 Update 1, Windows 8.1 Update 2 could be available and the previous version will be a pilot for the updated one.
"The good news is that improvements to Windows 8 help enable adoption. Microsoft has moved to a more fluid approach to releasing and updating Windows. In the 18 months since its release, Windows 8 has had two significant updates, and we expect more during the next year."
The organisations could face a problem in ensuring application compatibility during the upgrading of the system, especially in industries with government oversight or compliance requirements.
"The biggest compatibility issues in terms of applications not working will continue to be those that require specific releases of Internet Explorer.
"However, Windows 8 may be the baseline required for more agile application management and upgrades, and improved processes and tools will not resolve the ISV support problem."
He has suggested three options to keep organisations prepared through the decade.
Deploy Windows 8 on new PCs as they arrive, thereby phasing Windows 7 out over time as PCs are replaced.
Skip Windows 8 and plan to deploy a future version of Windows (perhaps Windows Threshold or even a release after that) to replace Windows 7.
Deploy Windows 8 on all PCs to eliminate Windows 7.