BMW and Windows 7: Why the car giant is taking the upgrade for a spin

Three reasons why the car maker will migrate from XP to new release.

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German automobile maker BMW is many things: Manufacturer of luxury cars and motorcycles; a prestigious brand name famous around the world; a sponsor of major sporting events; a giant corporation with a reputation for efficiency.

You can now add Windows 7 early adopter to that list.

The Munich-based auto giant, whose headquarters building is considered an architectural icon in Europe, has 100,000 employees in 250 locations in countries such as Germany, South Africa, the United States and China. On average, BMW manufactures between 1 and 1.5 million vehicles each year.

Within this vast environment, with users ranging from auto engineers to salespeople, sits 85,000 Windows machines.

BMW has been running Windows XP in its broad client environment since 2001. Happy with XP, the automaker passed on Windows Vista, so its planning for Windows 7 started early, says Bernhard Huber, BMW's Head of IT Workplace Systems.

Huber's department is responsible for the purchase, operation and support of all of BMW's devices such as PCs, phones and printers, as well as its corporate applications like e-mail, telephony and video conferencing.

"We identified a lot of functional and monetary benefits of Windows 7 early on," says Huber, adding that BMW first started testing the Windows 7 beta in the first quarter of this year and has increased the number of pilot users since the RTM (release to manufacturing) version of Windows 7 became available in late July.

"It is expected that 200 to 500 key users will participate in the pilot program until the end of 2009," he says.

Huber mentioned that BMW IT will increase compatibility testing with 5,000 users in a production environment in 2010, after which the rollout of Windows 7 on all machines at BMW will begin in 2011, probably around the time of Windows 7 Service Pack 1.

Better UI, Speed, App Virtualization and Memory

Huber says two areas where Windows 7 will make life easier for BMW employees is with the redesigned user interface and improved memory management.

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