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How big is Microsoft gambling with Windows 8?

Gregg Keizer, Computerworld | June 3, 2011
Analysts try to parse the risk Microsoft's taking by blending touch with the desktop in one OS

Not that that's necessarily a bad thing. "Organizations will have a hard time with Windows 8, but then they're tired from their Windows 7 deployments," Silver said.

Silver argued that enterprises will skip Windows 8, just as most did with Windows Vista, and instead stick to Windows 7, a tactic that Microsoft itself endorsed when it recommended that businesses now deploying Windows 7 stick with their plans.

But even Silver acknowledged that Windows 8 is a smart move by Microsoft.

"Microsoft needs a more modular approach to Windows, one that lets it put different components on different devices," he said, echoing recommendations he made in 2008 when he warned Windows was "collapsing" under its own weight. At the time, Silver said that unless Microsoft made radical changes, including putting Windows on a diet and making it modular, the OS risked becoming unsustainable.

"Microsoft needs a next-generation, lighter-weight OS, and that's what we're seeing signs of here with the new HTML5 and JavaScript [application] model," said Silver. "I see this as essentially the slimming down of Windows."

Although Windows 8 will run all traditional 32-bit or 64-bit software that now runs on Windows 7, Microsoft will also push developers to craft apps using HTML5, JavaScript and other Web-standard technologies, in a way aping the kind of online apps that Google markets.

Others were even more bullish on Windows 8's chances, and saw the transition as not so much a gamble by Microsoft, but the very best choice available.

"It would be a risk not to do what they're doing," said Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst with Forrester Research. "I see a risk by doing nothing."

Epps ticked off three elements to Windows 8 she believes are critical to the operating system's future relevance, including bringing Windows to devices powered by ARM's low-powered processor architecture, the touch-first model and the stress on new applications written with HTML5.

"Those three elements of Windows 8 support the behavior changes taking place in PC use," Epps said. "I don't see the PC as going away, but the PC is going to change."


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