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Even though some channel partners remain skeptical about the bounce they expect Windows 7 to provide to their sales numbers in the next year, a new study out by ITIC and Sunbelt Software shows 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.

The independent survey conducted by ITIC quizzed C-level executives and IT managers from 1,500 companies about their attitudes about the upcoming Windows refresh. It found that 19 percent of decision-makers plan on deploying within three months of release, 12 percent within three to six months and 18 percent within six months to a year. An additional 11 percent say they’re holding off until after the first Service Pack ships and 40 percent more say they do not have a definite deployment timetable.

Of those 40 percent of respondents with no definite plans for deployment, the most common reasons cited for delay or indifference include concerns about compatibility with legacy hardware and software and the lack of a compelling business reason to migrate from Windows XP or Vista deployments.

While the absence of a killer app is certainly a hurdle for Microsoft, the company has certainly put its shoulder into the effort for smoothing out the type of compatibility nightmares that hamstringed Vista’s success. Early indicators from this recent ITIC survey show that Microsoft may well reap the benefits from these efforts. Among respondents who have participated in Windows 7 beta testing, 80 percent rated performance and compatibility of Windows 7 as ‘Excellent’ or ‘Very Good.’

The survey’s author and ITIC Principal Analyst Laura DiDio called the results a “validation” of the success from Microsoft’s Application Compatibility Toolkit and its Ecosystems Readiness program, which coordinated outreach efforts among OEM hardware vendors and independent software vendors to avoid a repeat of Vista’s issues.

‘The customer feedback has been very positive,” DiDio says. “The general consensus among network administrators we interviewed was that Microsoft has successfully addressed the backwards compatibility issues with legacy hardware, drivers and applications.”