Businesses using  Windows 7 could see their energy costs slashed thanks to faster booting and better managing screen power usage.

At least that was the opinion of a nunber of corporate users, who took part in a panel at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo conference, that are currently migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7 after skipping Windows Vista.

Jim Thomas, director of IT operations at Pella Corp, said the group policy controls in Windows 7 are helping the company's IT department better control user power management.

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A desktop or laptop user may be able temporarily reset power management controls, "but every time the group policy reapplies it puts the power setting down that we want to apply", he said.

Thomas said that he is conservatively estimating that the use of Windows 7 will result in about $20,000 (£12,000) in annual power savings once the software is fully deployed.

Thomas said that about 200 out of the company's 4,000 users are running Windows 7 so far. He expects half of the company's users to be upgraded to Windows 7 next year and the rest during 2011.

Mike Capone, the CIO of Automatic Data Processing, said that about 300 of ADP's 30,000 users are running the new operating system. He said he has seen estimates that the Windows 7 power management capabilities could deliver savings "into the six figure range on an annual basis" once the full ADP rollout is completed.

He expects all users at the payroll processor to be running Windows 7 within 36 months.

The panelists lauded the significant speeding of the Windows 7 boot-up process , noting that it cuts minutes off the process.

Randy Benz, CIO of Energizer Holdings, said that 40 IT workers at company best known for its batteries has been running a Windows 7 pilot. The operating system will be deployed to about 8,800 more employees by the end of 2010.

Benz said Windows 7 boots up about 80 percent faster than XP, which could take 5 minutes or so.

"We're seeing a radical change from what we're experiencing with XP," said Benz. "My pet peeve is boot-up time with XP. It seems the longer you use it, the worse it gets."

Thomas said he expects the operating system's improved screen management capabilities will help call center employees cut down on time. If the software cuts a typical call by only 10 seconds, the saved time would add up quickly during the day and "turn into the ability to take more calls".

It may be a while before some other users at the conference, such Bill Piatt, the CIO of the International Finance Corporation, move to Windows 7.

He said they recently rolled out Windows Vista to 20,000 users as part of hardware upgrade. The OS and hardware upgrade "were in lockstep with each other," he said.

Piatt says he's interested in Windows 7, but minimally. He added that the company would wait until Windows 7's first service pack is released "before we would consider engineering a replacement".

Michael Zachary, an enterprise architect at Cook Children's Health Care System, has been working with Windows 7 for three weeks, and likes it enough to move off Vista as soon as he can.

"General performance, start-up, shutdown, general reliability, seems to be quite good," he said.

It takes his Vista so long to long shut down "you end up just killing it", said Zachary. Windows 7, he said, boots up in less than two minutes and shuts down in about 30 seconds.

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See also: How to upgrade to Windows 7