Vista may have been a groaning, hefty beast needing fast hardware, but Windows 7's snappy performance on older computers has the computer industry worried.
Windows 7's ability to run relatively well on older systems is potentially bad news for the PC industry -- manufacturers are going to have a hard time convincing users to upgrade their hardware, especially in the cash-strapped business market.
"There's a lot of interest in terms of Windows 7 performance," said Ross Gangemi, technical consultant for Dimension Data. "In the testing we've done, Windows 7 has been outperforming XP on a 4 or 5 year old piece of hardware."
That raises the likelihood that companies might consider upgrading their OS while keeping older hardware, rather than updating the two in parallel. "One of the big questions from customers is whether a Windows 7 deployment will save them from having to upgrade their platforms for another 12 months," Gangemi told APC.
"That's not something that the OEMs are going to be pleased about, but we're seeing a lot of people having a look to see if the performance gains from 7 without the hardware add up. People are doing a lot of testing to see what the performance increase is."
The performance improvements are dramatic enough that users aren't likely to complain about not getting a machine upgrade, Gangemi suggested. "They're going from a XP environment that takes five or six minutes to boot to a minute twenty. The resume from sleep is almost instantaneous."
One possible bright spot might be users who skipped Vista entirely because of its shoddy reputation. There's no direct upgrade path for migrating an XP system to Windows 7: data has to be migrated separately before the OS is freshly installed. That means that whether users want to keep their existing system or buy a new one, they'll absolutely have to back up their personal information before doing so. (Of course, you should always back up your data before doing an in-place upgrade, but in reality people often don't.)
In the corporate market, specialised tools like Dimension Data's Dynamic Systems can be used to automate large-scale migrations from one version of Windows to another. While the desktop scenario remains fairly unfriendly, Gangemi says that moving from older Windows Server releases is less complicated. "We've upgraded a couple of customers recently from [Windows Server] 2000 to 2008 and it's been a pretty painless process," he said.