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Windows interest light

Most area businesses say they’ll upgrade, eventually

Businesses and organizations in Spokane and North Idaho say they’re thinking about buying the new Windows 7 operating system. But for most the talk is phrased cautiously, with “at some point” and “once we finally get there,” indicating interest to buy, but not necessarily soon.

Nearly all area schools, nonprofit organizations, companies and government offices rely on software from Redmond-based Microsoft Corp. to manage business tasks, organize data and deliver e-mail.

With Windows 7 rolling out in less than a month, most area information technology managers say they’re inclined to buy the new system eventually, unlike the tepid reaction that greeted Windows Vista in 2007.

Microsoft claims Windows 7 is a much-improved version and will cost less than Vista did.

But for now, many IT managers say they’ll let other firms grab the first release or two of Windows 7 while they wait, continuing to use Windows XP.

Microsoft has said it will provide company support for Windows XP through Oct. 14.

At Washington State University, IT managers say they’ll move a small number of some of the campus’s technology staff from XP or from Vista to Windows 7 later this year.

But those first adopters on the Pullman campus will total fewer than 50 workers, said Tony Wright, manager of WSU’s desktop support group. The rest of WSU’s computer system will move much slower, with some departments not adopting Windows 7 for three years, said Arlo Clizer, director of operations in WSU’s Information Technology Services group. Budget restrictions – reflecting Washington state’s financial constraints – play a part in slowing purchases, he added.

At Spokane-based Inland Northwest Health Services, which manages computer resources and electronic data for area hospitals and many clinics, the transition to Windows 7 will not be swift either.

“It’s at least a year or more away,” said Chad Skidmore, who manages information resources for INHS, owned jointly by the parent organizations of Sacred Heart and Deaconess medical centers.

Some INHS customers and supported clinics rely on critical applications that handle and manage patient information and records. Skidmore said medical networks by necessity cannot move too fast into a new operating system until all their various tools and applications work correctly.

“We do want to look ahead to Windows 7,” added Skidmore. “We see lots of good stuff in what it has,” he said.

If capital budget priorities allow, Kootenai Health, North Idaho’s largest hospital, plans to replace about one-fourth of its systemwide 1,500 computers with the new Windows version, said Tom Legel, the hospital’s information systems vice president.

Nearly all the current computers at Kootenai Health use Windows XP.

“XP does fine. That’s not the question. We do want to move up to (the next system), not because it has more bells,” he said. Instead, with the computing world gradually moving away from XP, “If you wait too long, you start falling too far behind,” he said. “And then things start becoming harder to take care of.”