Windows 8 faces a number of hurdles in the enterprise, but the biggest reason it won't replace the current corporate champion, Windows 7, is simple.
"Enterprises just don't see Windows 8 having value," said David Johnson, an analyst with Forrester Research. "They don't see the value in the changes in Windows 8 [compared to Windows 7]."
Johnson, who authored a recently-published report that concluded enterprise IT will skip Windows 8 as a corporate-standard operating system, wasn't saying much new: Analysts have been predicting Windows 8 would face a tough sell long before the OS shipped last October.
Those prognostications cited everything from "upgrade fatigue" caused by ongoing efforts to purge networks of Windows XP machines to shortages of compelling hardware to stiff competition from Apple's iPad.
Johnson ticked off all of those.
But the value proposition was top on his list. "Windows 7 is proven," he noted, and fair or not, Windows 8 would have had to demonstrate major productivity improvements over that workhorse to have a chance at supplanting it.
And that's not something IT decision makers see in the upgrade, instead viewing it -- and its radical overhaul -- with suspicion. Their top concerns about the OS, according to Forrester's surveys, are the potential for significant end-user training and support, and the need to design in-house applications to leverage the new "Modern" user interface (UI). Just 7% of the nearly 1,300 IT professionals polled said that they believe the Modern UI is an improvement over Windows 7 and its traditional desktop.
"Windows 8 is a non-starter in the enterprise because of the UI changes," said Johnson.
However, Johnson acknowledged that Microsoft's problem in the enterprise did not entirely stem from the Modern UI, and its welding to the desktop. Timing was important, too. "This is an off-cycle release," he said, referring to the fact that companies have already spent capital on hardware refreshes for Windows 7.
This is an issue Microsoft has faced before: Many corporations have taken to adopting every other edition of Windows. For example, although Windows XP was already long in the tooth when Windows Vista debuted for enterprises in late 2006, businesses stuck with the former and largely ignored the latter.
The same will hold true with Windows 8, relegated to an also-ran.
But while IT decision makers are down on Windows 8, workers were much more positive about the moves Microsoft's made. More than a third of 9,800 workers surveyed in the fourth quarter of 2012 -- 38% -- said they'd choose Windows 8 as their preferred PC operating system, while 20% picked it as their preferred tablet OS.
While Johnson didn't go so far as to call those employee preferences — and the ensuing PCs and tablets they might take to work — a Trojan Horse, he urged enterprises, even those with no plans to adopt Windows 8, to prep for its support and inclusion in any bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.