ATO in huge Windows 7 rollout


news The Australian Taxation Office has joined the throng of Australian organisations confirming plans to finally ditch Microsoft’s legacy Windows XP operating system and adopt Windows 7, in a move that will also see the agency’s employees finally freed from decade-old web browser Internet Explorer 6.

When Windows 7 was first released in 2009, the ATO played down any plans to migrate to the new operating system, with the agency stating at the time that it had not at that stage started planning a Windows 7 upgrade. The ATO maintains one of the nation’s largest desktop PC and laptop fleets, with a count somewhere between 23,000 and 30,000. However, the agency confirmed last week that it was “progressing” an upgrade to Windows 7, as well as deploying Microsoft’s latest Office 2010 productivity suite at the same time. Delimiter believes the rollout will take place over the next six months.

One key aspect of the rollout will be the decision by the ATO to finally migrate off Microsoft’s legacy Internet Explorer 6 browser. The software giant has been strongly encouraging its global user base to dump IE6 for some time, as it was first released back in 2001 and does not support a number of standards critical for using the modern Internet as well as applications delivered through a web browser as a service.

A number of Australian organisations have hung on to IE6, however, due to the need to support internal applications that rely on it. The Department of Defence, for example, only upgraded to version 7 of the browser in mid-2010, and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia shifted earlier the same year.

The ATO will also participate in Microsoft’s ‘Home Use Program’ associated with its Office 2010 software. The program allows employees at supporting organisations to buy a full copy of Office 2010 for just $15.

It is likely that the support of US diversified technology giant Lockheed Martin will be critical to the ATO’s Windows 7 upgrade. The agency had previously supported its IT environment through a comprehensive technology outsourcing arrangement with HP’s Enterprise Services division (which contains the bulk of its acquisition of IT services outfit EDS), but signed a new contract with Lockheed Martin in mid-2010 for the support of desktop PCs and other end-user computing services.

The contract encompasses the provision of support to desktop PCs and equipment, offices machines such as faxes and printers and associated back-end infrastructure. A service management centre – including a single point of contact service desk for IT and service management issues – will be provided to the ATO.

The news comes as research emerged last week in a Forrester report sponsored by systems integrator Dimension Data that Australian organisations were increasingly looking to deploy Windows 7 — despite the fact that Windows 8 is close to reaching production. One of the other major Windows 7 rollouts is expected to be the desktop consolidation project at the Federal Department of Human Services, the new super-department formed through the merger of Centrelink, Medicare and other agencies.

In addition, news the nation’s largest telco Telstra last week confirmed it is currently in the midst of one of Australia’s largest known rollouts of Windows 7, in an initiative which will eventually touch most of the company’s 40,000 staff.

With the ATO and the Department of Human Services converting their desktop PCs and laptops to Windows 7, I expect the rest of the Federal Government will follow suit and migrate over the next 2-3 years. In my opinion, this may also be the last major wave of desktop software upgrades to take place in the public sector. There is simply no way that departments and agencies will upgrade to Windows 8, 9 or 10 any time in the next decade, after having conducted such massive Windows 7 upgrades more than a decade after Windows XP was released.

Microsoft will need to generate a massively compelling business proposition down the track to get major organisations to migrate off Windows 7.

Image credit: Matt Aiello, royalty free