Windows 8 Challenge: Survive Growing Pains, Become a Mobile Player

Windows 8 faces skeptical IT customers and a hardware landscape dotted with iOS and Android mobile devices. The good news for Microsoft is that Windows 8 will gain market traction by 2014 and be a true tablet player by 2016, according to research firm Forrester.

Wed, October 31, 2012

CIO — Windows, the decades-long darling of most businesses, has come face-to-face with a brave new world in enterprise computing as Windows 8 launches.

It didn't happen overnight but the BYOD (bring your own device) trend that developed with the arrival of sophisticated non-Windows tablets like the iPad and smartphones like the iPhone and Android phones, has in many ways hijacked enterprise IT. It has put the power of device choice in the hands of employees.

It doesn't help Microsoft that the iPad is being deployed at many enterprises due to user demand and that the PC-only OS Windows 7 is well-liked by businesses and consumers who are in no rush to upgrade to Windows 8.

"Windows 7 is the OS of choice for enterprises right now, and most are in the middle of their transition from XP to 7 and not ready to invest in another migration," says David Johnson, senior analyst at Forrester Research. "Our data show enterprise IT interest in Windows 8 at half the level that it was for Windows 7 at release."

No Windows Vista to Spur Demand

The arrival of Windows 7 in Oct. 2009 came under much different circumstances; it was the follow-up to the scorned Windows Vista, so there was pent-up demand for Windows 7 in the enterprise. In addition, when Windows 7 came into the world, there was no iPad and smartphones were not as sophisticated as they are now (Android was in its infancy in 2009). Windows 7 was not competing with an assortment of touch devices, but Windows 8 is.

As a result, Windows 8 will face more scrutiny, say Forrester analysts. Because consumers have more viable non-Windows tablets, smartphones and Macs to choose from, Windows 8 will be assessed by customers in a different light with little patience for Microsoft's usual complexity, as Forrester vice president and principal analyst Frank Gillett recently wrote in research report entitled "Windows: The Next Five Years."

Slideshow: Windows 8 Cheat Sheet

"Until smartphones arrived, Microsoft ruled the PC industry roost," writes Gillett. "Now smartphone and tablet sales, where Microsoft has little share, vastly outnumber PC sales. Microsoft has made bold technology, business and design choices for the Windows 8 launch. But the two user experiences [Windows 8 and Windows RT] and four processor choices will be difficult to digest."

Indeed, there will be growing pains as Microsoft tries to sell Windows 8 on touch devices and distribute apps in a new way through the Windows Store, writes Gillett.

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