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Like Vista before it, Microsoft’s Windows 7 will capture a significant portion of the operating system market just because it will ship on the majority of new PCs sold over the next few years.

However, for the installed PC base that isn’t planning to move over to Apple’s resurgent Macintosh platform, the question isn’t are you going to move to the new OS, but when.

A new study from ITIC and Sunbelt Software states that 60 percent of companies worldwide have made plans to deploy the new operating system, and 49 percent will do it within the first year of release. According to Laplink, up to 70 percent of computers are still running Windows XP. For those wishing to upgrade from XP, Laplink is offering PCmover Windows 7 Upgrade Assistant. And from Microsoft there are two migration options to XP customers with Windows User State Migration Tool (USMT) 4.0 and Windows Easy Transfer.

On Tuesday Kace Networks Inc. will offer an alternative it thinks will prove very attractive to the channel and the midmarket portion of the tens of millions of XP customers. Targeted at organizations with 500-5,000 PCs, the new version of the KBOX family of systems management and deployment appliances are intended to ease the migration, deployment and ongoing management of Windows 7.

This is a huge market opportunity, says Seann Gardiner, senior director of channel development, and Kace has a compelling value proposition and a typical sales cycle of 30 days, with very quick time to value. Customers can be up and running in as little as one day and the typical ROI is under three months. Margins are also very attractive, he added.

The company, which sells 100 percent through the channel, can address customers with as many as 20,000 or more PCs, or as few as the 100-500 range, but the sweet spot is 500-1,000, he said. "We’re good at that segment."

The latest deployment and management capabilities include: KBOX User State Migration for the deployment of user-specific files and settings along with OS applications; K-imaging, a flexible file-based imaging format that uses smart synchronization to eliminate redundant transfers in the capture, storage and deployment of Windows 7 images; Network OS Install automates the build out of Gold Master reference machines and provides a hardware independent option to deploy Windows 7 through driver slipstreaming; Remote Site Provisioning allows users to manage OS migration on remote sites in addition to their headquarter network; Enhanced Asset Management capabilities allows users to monitor Windows 7 OS and software license compliance; Improved Patch Management capabilities enables users to automatically deploy relevant Windows 7 patches to machines on local and remote networks; and, Application Virtualization lets users keep a Windows 7 deployment free from any potential application conflicts.

Kace product manager Sendhil Jayachandran says 83 percent of businesses will skip Vista and will have to do a clean install to Windows 7. Making it even more complicated, 59 percent of the market doesn’t use automation tools. "So the market clearly needs help. There are other solutions available, but with KBOX, we believe you will get you there quicker."

He says they’re appliance-based approach allows for rapid deployment and minimal training and a single UI (user interface). "Kace optimizes the entire Windows 7 migration lifecycle."

The primary customer concerns are software compatibility, new hardware requirements and retaining user-specific information, says Gardiner, all of which are addressed by KBOX. "We’re certainly the easiest to use and we add a management layer to it that is unparalleled."

The KBOX Systems Management Appliance is available now and starts at $9,900. The KBOX System Deployment Appliance is currently shipping as a release candidate and will be generally available on December 1, starting at $4,900. Kace will be hosting a free webinar, "7 Steps to Windows 7 Migration Success- A Tutorial," on Tuesday, Nov. 3 at 9:00 a.m. PT. To register, go here.