Microsoft Launch Try Before You Buy

Microsoft extends its Windows 7 Enterprise Trial program until the end of 2010, allowing IT professionals a 90-day trial of Windows 7 Enterprise Edition. While Microsoft says the extension is due to popular demand, recent statements by the company suggest that Windows 7 is not being adopted by businesses in the same way as by consumers. Altogether, Microsoft says, it has sold 90 million copies of Windows 7 since the operating system launched in October 2009.

Microsoft has extended its Windows 7 Enterprise Trial program to Dec. 31, 2010. While an official blog post says the extension was "due to popular demand," recent executive comments suggest that Windows 7 is experiencing slowed uptake among enterprises and small and midsize businesses.

The 90-day trial edition of Windows 7 Enterprise is offered in both 32- and 64-bit versions, and was originally released to assist IT administrators in testing applications, hardware and deployment strategies ahead of the operating system's October 2009 release. At the time the trial was initiated, in September 2009, Microsoft said it would issue "a limited number of licenses" available only "while supplies last."

At the time, Microsoft spokespeople declined to state the exact number of those licenses, which has evidently now been expanded.

"The Enterprise trial is designed specifically for IT professionals, so that you can test your software and hardware on a final version of the product," Stephen Rose, worldwide community manager for Windows 7, explained on The Windows Blog. "In addition, it provides the opportunity for you to become more familiar with the key improvements over previous versions of the Windows operating system, and experience firsthand how Windows 7 can make your PC environment more productive, secure and manageable."

Those who install the trial edition will have 10 days to activate the product; once the 90-day testing period has passed, the operating system will begin to shut down every hour. Those who wish to continue using Windows 7 Enterprise after that point will need to perform a clean installation of the full version.

While Microsoft claims that Windows 7 has sold 90 million licenses since its release, reports indicate that some potential markets for the operating system are soft, particularly businesses.

While tech spending by SMBs and enterprises has shown "green shoots" following the deep freeze of a global recession, a full-fledged revival—and accompanying Windows 7 purchases by businesses—may take some time, according to recent comments from Microsoft executives.

"There will be an enterprise refresh cycle," Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Peter Klein told a Morgan Stanley investor conference March 2. "It's not precisely certain when that will happen or how fast that will happen, but we expect it to happen this calendar year and go into next calendar year, and that will be a really good catalyst for growth for our PC business."

During a Jan. 28 earnings call, Bill Koefoed, Microsoft's general manager of investor relations, said "weak business PC sales" were hampering the company's enterprise software sales, and despite "strong consumer demand for Windows 7 and PCs ... conditions from last quarter remain unchanged" for many businesses reluctant to spend.

During the same call, Klein noted, "We have not seen a return to enterprise software growth."

A recent report from Forrester Research indicated that, while 86 percent of surveyed Windows 7 users said they were satisfied with the operating system, 10 per cent of Windows XP and Windows Vista users said they planned an upgrade to Windows 7 within the next six months. However, unlike previous versions of Windows, users were apparently more inclined to upgrade without purchasing a new computer, an indicator that Forrester suggested was due to Windows 7's more streamlined hardware requirements and ability to run on older machines.

Analytics company Net Applications found in a January study that Windows 7 averaged a 7.57 percent share of the U.S. operating system market, compared with 66.15 percent for XP, 17.47 per cent for Vista, 2.37 per cent for Mac OS X, 1.80 per cent for Mac OS X 10.6 and 1.02 per cent for Linux.

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