Windows 8 Could Take A Decade To Reach Business Users

The shift to the Metro interface in Windows 8 means a radical change to the way you interact with your computer. That can be challenging enough on the individual level, but it represents an even bigger issue for business users and IT managers facing the prospect of retraining large groups of users and rebuilding business applications. The end result? It will be a long, slow move to Windows 8 for larger organisations.

In a recent research paper, analyst firm Gartner examined how Windows 8 will fit into typical enterprise computing scenarios. It points out that while the visible shift to Metro will itself represent a major challenge, it's the change to the underlying WinRT programming model from the current Win32 approach that is more significant in the long run:

Windows 8 is more than a major new version of Windows. WinRT is a new platform designed to keep Microsoft relevant in a future that will be dominated by mobile devices. Microsoft will position WinRT as its strategic platform for new development, but most users will continue to run Win32 applications for 10 or more years.

Making that transition is tricky for Microsoft. It wants to ensure that its platforms remain relevant and look modern, but it also needs to ensure that existing apps can run effectively. That's being done by combining the new Metro interface with the legacy Desktop environment in Windows 8, but that has created an inconsistent interface:

Windows 8's current integration of the two environments (Windows Metro and Windows Desktop) is jarring and will need to evolve before significant adoption beyond stand-alone tablets will happen in enterprises. We believe the quirks of the current Windows 8 UX will be ironed out over the next few years. Microsoft's problem is that Windows 8 will need to be good enough when it ships, because Microsoft is already late and doesn't have a few more years.

Consumer-centric systems such as the Windows Store could also potentially alter purchasing arrangements for businesses. Microsoft hasn't yet revealed any plans to allow bulk licensing via the Store, and it seems likely that the current models of direct purchases by IT departments will continue. However, using the Store does pose significant challenges for enterprise management tools, as Gartner's analysis points out:

It is uncertain how current management tools will work with WinRT. The sandbox architecture prevents a single application from maintaining the system image of a device, because that would be a gross violation of the new architecture. The application store model implies that management will be more pull-based than push-based, changing the basic endpoint management approach of most enterprises, at least on Windows RT devices.

Given all those factors, Gartner predicts that it will be at least 10 years before most organisations actually make the shift onto Windows 8 in large numbers. That's not impossible to believe: just look at all those Windows XP deployments that are still active 11 years after the software first appeared.

It's not uncommon for businesses to skip an entire Windows generation. For companies running Windows 7, Gartner suggests that the successor to Windows 8 is likely to appear by 2014, which fits comfortably within the typical three-to-five year lifecycle for workplace computers (if they have been recently upgraded). So while consumers may race to buy Windows 8 devices this year, business will be waiting a lot longer.

Evolve is a weekly column at Lifehacker looking at trends and technologies IT workers need to know about to stay employed and improve their careers.


Comments

    Bulk of our workstations are still on XP. Planning a migration to Win7 next year, mainly cos it's getting harder to find XP drivers for new hardware and we want to keep things consistent. If it wasn't for that, I bet I could happily run XP forever!

    Wrong.

    Windows 8 will never reach most business users. Most businesses will go from XP to 7 and will never deploy 8 or metro.

    And in 10 years time, businesses will not be installing 8, they'll be installing 10 or 11 which doesn't have metro in its current form.

    8 is worse than Vista and as such will be avoided. Businesses who do contemplate it, still won't use it because they'll be a minority in terms of support, expertise and user training requirements.

    The Metro interface won't work for most businesses, because it isn't really designed for desktop mouse & keyboard use. Its clunky and restrictive. Windows 7 is so highly regarded generally that Microsoft will be forced to keep maintaining it for longer just like they had to with XP.

    Right now, there is no reason whatsoever for businesses to consider upgrading to Windows 8, so they won't and will almost certainly insist that new PCs are supplied with Windows 7 not Windows 8.

      "The Metro interface won’t work for most businesses, because it isn’t really designed for desktop mouse & keyboard use."
      Rubbish. How stupid do you think Microsoft is? They know that most people will still be using keyboard + mouse/trackpad for the near foreseeable future, and they've made Metro work really nicely with it.
      Apologies if I sounded a bit like a troll.

        Have you tried using Metro? It is so inefficient with a mouse it's not funny.

          Pyta you are spot on. Metro on Desktop is so bad, I am really open and I absolutely LOVE new tech, but after hours of using Windows 8 and trying to forgive all the horrible sacrifices, I just can't stop having negative thoughts about it. I get angry using it. I know what they are trying to do, but damn they are retarded at doing it.

    We're moving to Windows 7 at work for the same reasons mentioned above.
    If Microsoft don't change their interface maybe more businesses will go to Mac OS in an effort to keep training costs low.

      And keep actual technical costs up? I don't think having the start menu in full screen makes that much of a difference.

    It will be interesting to see what the uptake of Windows 8 Server will be like given it's aimed at business and is also forcing metro. Like any Windows Server release though, it's always best to wait for the R2 version anyway, as to whether Microsoft persist with metro in Win8 Server R2 or not, time will tell as it'll more likely be based on a Win9 build if Win2k8/Vista and Win2k8R2/Win7 are anything to go by.

    Notwithstanding that I am still supporting some critical infrastructure for a major international airline that runs on Windows 2000, Metro and Windows 8 is not really going to make much of a splash for anyone who uses a keyboard and mouse. Microsoft are betting a lot on this turkey, a bet that will replicate Vista and Win-ME.

    The government department I work for is still running XP in a virtual environment. Our next hardware upgrade is due in about 18 months and if we change, it'll likely be to Win 7. Like many large (2000+ users) installations, changes to IT infrastructure are slower.

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