With more than half of all enterprises not having fully transitioned to Windows 7 and a good number still on Windows XP, IT managers face a tough call when Microsoft formally rolls out Windows 8 later this week--continue on to Win7, or jump straight to Windows 8?

There is lots to consider. Windows 7 has a solid track record, but Windows 8 offers new and improved features like Secure Boot security and Windows To Go portability. One thing is certain. Whether they choose Windows 7 or Windows 8, enterprises need to get off XP as quickly as possible. Microsoft will discontinue support for the decade-old OS in 2014.

"Paying Microsoft for Windows XP support after [formal] support ends is going to get expensive," said Gartner analyst Mike Silver.

Silver, along with most experts, users, and even Microsoft itself believe that the most prudent upgrade path for enterprises is to move from XP to Windows 7 on corporate desktops, while allowing road warriors the freedom to use Windows 8 Professional on tablets.

"Windows 7 has been shipping for three years," said Silver. "It's mature, the vendors support it, there are lots of good skills for Windows 7. A company that has made little or no progress on Windows 7 over the past three years is highly unlikely to be able to take a brand new operating system and deploy it for all users before XP support ends."