Forrester used an online survey of 4,559 U.S. consumers to gauge impressions about the new OS in late December, or about two months after Microsoft released Windows 7. The survey found that "86 percent of Windows 7 early adopters" were satisfied with their computers.
Forrester found a somewhat lower satisfaction rate when it polled users of "all Windows versions," who showed a 74 percent satisfaction rate with their PCs.
The study, "Windows 7 Early Adopters Are Very Satisfied," also showed a curious trend. Consumers obtained their copies of Windows 7 either with a new PC or by upgrading an existing PC, and those numbers were in about equal proportions. The high number of Windows 7 upgraders in Forrester's sample may reflect Microsoft's change in direction on hardware support. Unlike Windows Vista, which required a hardware upgrade to run the OS in many instances, "the relatively thinner Windows 7 client runs well on older PCs," according to the report.
The study's lead author, J.P. Gownder, described Windows 7 as "a less burdensome OS than Windows Vista." He added in a blog post that Microsoft met the demand for a sleeker OS with Windows 7 due, in part, to "the rise of netbooks."
Microsoft has tended to say that most people will obtain Windows 7 when they buy new PCs. However, 43 percent of Forrester's early adopters purchased their copy of Windows 7 to upgrade an existing PC.
Forrester also measured consumer awareness of the new OS in its "Windows 7 Succeeds in Raising Awareness" study. Windows 7 awareness was high, at 90 percent, in the fourth quarter of 2009. By contrast, Vista awareness was slightly lower (85 percent), but Forrester had gauged Vista awareness in its survey before that OS had been released.
Microsoft continues to stumble over its popular, but venerable, nine-year-old Windows XP OS, which has long been the staple of enterprise users, even after Vista was launched. Consumers apparently love XP too. Forrester's report found that "43 percent of PC owners" see no reason to upgrade from XP.
"The biggest competitor to Windows 7 isn't the Mac -- it's Windows XP," the report explains.
XP is typically being sold today only with new netbooks purchases, and only as the Home edition. All Windows 7 users have XP downgrade rights if the PC is purchased before April 22, 2011. However, when Microsoft releases Windows 7 Service Pack 1, new PC buyers will only be able to downgrade to Vista, according to details described by Microsoft in June.
Microsoft hinted this month that SP1 for Windows 7 is on its way, but the company didn't say when it would ship.
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