Opening up Windows - PC Retail

Opening up Windows

PCR finds out what plans distributors have in place for Windows 7's release
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Windows 7 will be available for release at the end of October and has already received wide-ranging interest. The release candidate has been available for some time, which has allowed for public testing of the operating system on an unprecedented scale prior to its general availability.

The vast majority of reports have been positive and with Microsoft making a point of communicating with users, a huge ongoing marketing drive and record sales during its preorder period, the likelihood is that the new system will be well received.

Microsoft seems determined to avoid making the mistakes that somewhat blighted the launch of Vista, and has been working closely with its retail partners to make sure that they know the product and have the right marketing materials and web content. Many of its partners are able to offer free upgrade vouchers with sales of Windows Vista, while participating retailers were offering copies of Windows 7 at a discount price on preorder before selling out completely.

"We have been preparing for the launch by selling the various Vista editions with an upgrade voucher to Windows 7," states Enta's commercial group vice president Jon Atherton. "As well as this we have also been talking to other vendors about bundling their products with Windows 7 on the October 22nd launch date."

"We've got plenty of the new Vista products that include a free upgrade voucher to Windows 7," remarks VIP's Microsoft product manager Mark Lynch. "We want to make sure that our customers can keep on selling Vista until the arrival of Windows 7 – these new SKUs help eliminate uncertainty with users who may have considered delaying the purchase of a new notebook or PC until then."

"For now, the emphasis is most definitely on training," adds VIP's Microsoft product specialist Phil Bowery. "We have invested lots of time training not only our sales team but also our customers to make sure that we're all ready for the launch."

Ingram Micro is also placing an emphasis on staff training.

"Ingram Micro are working very closely with Microsoft to build the capability of our sales organisation around Windows 7, ensuring we have a sales force able to address our customers' needs," comments Ingram Micro's head of software and mobility, Apay Obang-Oyway. "In addition to this, we are also working closely with our customers on readiness activities within their own businesses to ensure they can identify and articulate the opportunities Windows 7 presents for their end customers."

Although some companies cannot be too forthcoming about their actual plans for the deployment of the new operating system, it is clear that it will be a major event for the industry.

"Naturally I can't disclose any specifics at this stage, however Windows 7 will be a major product launch for Gem and we will reinforce its release with a vast range of marketing support," comments Gem's head of marketing Neil Handa. "This will certainly include product information and awareness to the channel as well as innovative retail and point of sale marketing."

Much of the reason for the heightened activity around the launch lies in the fact that Microsoft appears to be more confident about Windows 7 than it has been with many other products in its portfolio recently. It has good reason to – when the operating system was made available for preorder at a discount rate, it sold out within a day, with some retail partners exhausting stocks within eight hours.

"Windows 7 is in very high demand and we have already seen an increase in sales due to the voucher being sold with Vista," says Atherton. "This is a positive step forward and will only get better when the official product is launched. It's being well received, and with the way that Vista was received you can already see that the new OS will definitely be bigger and better."

"I anticipate Windows 7 to be popular and successful and I am sure the channel is looking forward to its release later this year," predicts Handa. "We are planning for sustainable sales well into its launch as Microsoft targets both XP and Vista users. Having seen it in action, there is a lot to get excited about. The early opinions have been very favourable and the new benefits to users should ensure it's well received."

Spire Technology's Microsoft product manager Andrew Ward is also enthusiastic: "Windows 7 is going to be huge. Realistically, I think there are a lot of people on XP who will jump straight in to Windows 7. I have personally been using the release candidate for the last six weeks and I absolutely love it. It's more efficient, it's faster and it's a lot more fluid than Vista ever was – and I'm a Vista fan."

CCI Distribution's commercial director Mark Wilson agrees about a potentially high conversion rate from XP users and looks forward to a key boost during the later half of this year: "Many end users are still using Windows XP, as they were reluctant to jump to Vista after initial bad press following its launch. Therefore, the launch of Windows 7 during the pre- Christmas run should pick up many users who have been waiting to upgrade – and usually, with the purchase of a new system, comes the purchase of peripherals and other associated products. So, whilst sales in Q3 and Q4 have traditionally been higher than Q2, the launch of Windows 7 should boost the usual seasonality in the IT market."

Bowery forecasts a positive ripple effect for other sectors too: "I think we will see a massive difference with the take-up of Windows 7 compared to Vista. There were many people who were caught in a dilemma; they wanted something newer than XP but they weren't keen on Vista. There has been so much positive press on Windows 7, even from Linux users who have been genuinely impressed by how responsive and easy to use it is.

"One of the most notable things about Windows 7 is its resource usage, not just on desktop PCs but on netbooks – it makes them come alive. I've installed the release candidate on an EeePC and it worked brilliantly."

"For resellers, the release of new operating systems can be positive for sales of hardware too," adds Lynch. "Typically, users see it as a good opportunity to update or even replace their PC. I see sales of netbooks in particular to benefit because the low resource usage of Windows 7 makes it extremely compatible with them.

"This year's Microsoft Partner Conference promoted a clear sense of optimism and general positivity towards Windows and Microsoft's approach to negotiating through this current tough climate," concludes Obang-Oyway. "The amount of positive press around the Beta release inside and outside the industry is evidence of the fact Windows 7 is already being well received. That the early adopters programme has been oversubscribed is yet further evidence that this is definitely a product that is being received very positively.

"We strongly encourage our customers to learn all they can about the potential opportunity of Windows 7 and that taking advantage of the relevance and value to organisational development is well understood."

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