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Businesses should plan and test Microsoft Windows 7 this year and look to eliminate Windows XP by the end of 2012.

Those recommendations come in a new report from Gartner, which says now is the time for organizations to be planning and making decisions about when to begin migration to Windows 7, set target dates for Windows XP to be gone and decide whether to deploy Windows 7 to all PCs, only new PCs or to go with a mixed environment.

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"In various Gartner polls and surveys, 80 percent of respondents report skipping Windows Vista,” says Michael Silver, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “With Windows XP getting older and Windows 8 nowhere in sight, organizations need to be planning their migrations to Windows 7.

Silver further notes that: “Windows 7 has been getting positive reviews, and many clients report that they have plans to start their production deployments, but there are some that are still undecided about when to start and how quickly to do the migration."

Microsoft says it will end support for Windows XP in April 2014, which is driving Gartner’s recommendation for companies to migrate from that operating system by the end of 2012 when many new applications are not expected to support XP.

Organizations taking the attrition approach to PC refresh, consider their PC refresh rate must set a target end date in order to determine how many PCs can be moved to Windows 7 by attrition. However, based on the typical PC refresh rate, many organizations will not be able to get Windows XP out by their target end date by moving to Windows 7 by attrition alone.
Those organizations taking a forklift approach need to work backward from their target end date to find the latest date they can begin the actual deployment, and continue working backward to understand the latest starting dates for piloting and testing. Most organizations need 12 to 18 months for planning, testing and piloting.

In both scenarios, the length of time for the actual migration should take into consideration the cost of supporting an environment with multiple versions of Windows, as well as the cost to deploy a new operating system to every user, according to Gartner, which advises that those without Software Assurance on Windows, would also need to include the cost of buying additional Windows upgrade licenses.