Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Microsoft's Latest Plan to Win SMBs: Windows 7 Pro

With Windows 7, Microsoft (MSFT) aims to please both consumers and businesses large and small.

Wait a minute -- small?

Yes, a lesser-known aspect of the Windows 7 strategy is to appeal to SMBs (small and midsized businesses). Microsoft defines a small business as anywhere from five to 100 employees, and anything between 100 and 1,000 employees is considered to be midsize. Most of these companies need more than what Windows 7 Home Premium offers, but cannot afford the Software Assurance licenses required for Windows 7 Enterprise edition.

In between these two worlds is Windows 7 Professional, a version of the new OS that is pricier than Home Premium (Professional costs $199 for an upgrade version and $299 for a new, full retail version. Home Premium goes for $119 and $199), but offers more networking and security features.

Some examples of Win7 Pro features: location-aware printing to connect to printers anywhere; remote desktop connectivity; encrypted file system; the Windows XP Mode virtualization feature that allows users to run XP applications that won't work natively on a Windows 7 machine; and domain join, which allows easier connection from a personal laptop to a business network.

Business with 10 or fewer employees may not need the features of Windows 7 Professional, but for anything beyond 10 employees Windows 7 Home Premium may not be enough, says Sandrine Skinner, a director in the Windows Commercial Product Management group.

Recognizing a marketing and revenue opportunity, Microsoft has started packaging Windows 7 Professional on PCs from hardware partners like Dell, Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and marketing them to SMBs. Microsoft is also working on guidelines to help SMBs pick the right version of Windows 7 for their needs, and plans to release these guidelines before mid-2010.

In a recent interview, Skinner admits that SMBs are a group that was not given enough attention with Windows Vista. Therefore, Microsoft baked new features into Windows 7 Professional with SMBs in mind.

Here is an edited version of CIO.com's interview with Skinner.

When will Windows 7 Professional machines designed for SMBs be available, and which OEMs will be manufacturing them?

We already have some great options available today, including the Dell Vostro V13, Lenovo's ThinkPad SL series and HP's ProBook 5310m. We will keep working with OEMs and retailers to make sure small businesses have a broad selection of PCs to choose from and that they all address their business needs.

What are Windows 7 Professional features that SMBs are clamoring for? Can you provide some examples?

A few examples that address three key specific business needs are productivity, data backup and application compatibility.

IT World

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