US Air Force Begins Migration to Windows 7

Dennis Faas's picture

Following in the footsteps of millions of American home and business users, the United States Air Force has begun the process of migrating all of its computer systems from Windows XP and Windows Vista to the new Windows 7 operating system (OS). The Air Force expects its 600,000 desktop and laptop PCs will be fully upgraded by December 2011.

With more than half a million PCs in need of attention, the Air Force recognizes the next year will represent an enormous challenge for its IT professionals. In a press briefing at the Pentagon this week, Air Force Chief Information Officer Lieutenant-General William Lord characterized the transition to Win7 as "a daunting task." (Source:

But Lt-Gen Lord thinks it can be done, noting that the challenge is more of a user experience issue -- meaning the real difficulty may be in showing the Air Force's many computer users how to navigate Windows 7 versus XP or Vista. He suggested that, by comparison, the technical challenge is less daunting.

Most USAF PCs Running Vista Now

The transition should also be aided by the fact that most Air Force computers currently run Windows Vista, an OS that is, in fact, much more like Windows 7 than Windows XP.

It would appear the main reason for the Air Force's transition to Windows 7 isn't necessarily related to concerns over security or usability. According to Col. Mark Ware, new equipment recently acquired by the Air Force requires the use of Microsoft's newest operating system.

Because so much of the new equipment will run Windows 7 out-of-the-box, it was a logical decision to move the Air Force's existing hardware to the new OS.

Reducing Apps Could Help Cut Costs

An estimated 19,000 applications run on the Air Force's current system, and all will need to be properly integrated with the new OS.

"The process takes a long time because we're trying to make sure that we fix each of applications," Ware said. The Air Force is actually looking at reducing the number of applications that need to be moved; in fact, if it's able to cut the 19,000 to 10,000, as is hoped, costs could be reduced by $600 to $800 million.

Meanwhile, it would seem the Air Force isn't alone in making the transition. According to a new report from analysts NetMarketShare, Windows 7's piece of the pie continues to grow. It's up 1.14 per cent from last month, to 18.24 per cent, overall. By contrast, Windows XP dipped almost 10 per cent this past year to a 59 per cent market share. (Source:

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