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After 2012 launch splash, Windows 8 faces enterprise skepticism

Juan Carlos Perez | Dec. 19, 2012
Among the raft of recent and upcoming Microsoft upgrades, Windows 8 towers in importance but its chances for success remain cloudy among enterprise customers.

For example, a company may choose Windows 8 for a new fleet of tablets, or to refresh their laptop fleet with new Windows 8 "hybrids" that have touchscreens as well as keyboards, trackpads and mice.

Forrester Research recently said that the interest level among IT decision makers for Windows 8 is about half of what it was for Windows 7 in the third quarters of 2012 and 2009, respectively. (Both products shipped in late October, three years apart.)

The Forrester findings are based on surveys of IT decision makers in Europe and North America, in which 24 percent of respondents polled in 2012 said they expected to migrate to Windows 8 at some point, while 49 percent had given a similar answer about Windows 7 in 2009.

"IT decision makers are expressing concern about the new UI, because they believe it's going to require new training and additional support to get people used to it," said David Johnson, a Forrester analyst.

TeleMate.Net's Newton concurs. "Any large-scale deployment of Windows 8 is going to have a negative impact on productivity in the business world, because people will be spinning their wheels trying to figure out how to do this, how to do that," he said.

In addition, the security, manageability and performance enhancements in Windows 8 are notable, but not enough to prompt enterprises to embark on a broad desktop upgrade right after moving from XP to Windows 7, Forrester's Johnson said.

Even in cases where an enterprise will consider Windows 8 specifically for a tablet rollout, IT managers need to consider certain issues with the new OS. For starters, it's a bigger, heavier OS than iOS and Android, so Windows 8 tablets will generally consume more resources, and thus may be bulkier, costlier and more battery hungry, he said.

"I'm not sure that's a tradeoff tablet buyers are willing to make," Johnson said.

Windows RT, the Windows 8 version designed for lighter, smaller ARM-based devices, isn't as enterprise friendly as the standard Windows 8 for x86 Intel and AMD machines.

For example, Windows RT can't run existing applications for Windows 7 and older Windows versions; it can only run new applications built for it and offered via the new Windows Store.

Also, while Windows RT comes with its own version of Office, the suite isn't licensed for business use. Plus, the Outlook e-mail client software ubiquitous in enterprises can't be installed on Windows RT machines. Windows RT also lacks many IT management tools and features present in Windows 8.

IT managers also need to carefully review their business applications, and whether their vendors are supporting them on Windows 8, Gartner's Silver said.


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