Windows 8 needs enthusiasm from consumers to succeed in the enterprise
15 February 2013

Windows 8 needs enthusiasm from consumers to succeed in the enterprise

The trend seems to be that businesses will continue to wait before they consider Windows 8, and that Microsoft might have to wait until Windows 9 to reassert its enterprise status.

Even before Windows 8 launched, analysts were skeptical about the success of Windows 8 within the enterprise. Microsoft re-imagined Windows 8 received mixed reviews and disappointing post-launch sales and compares modestly to the debut of its extremely popular predecessor, Windows 7.

The Surface Pro recently became available in February 2013 and there will be more powerful Ultrabooks on the way. The Windows RT Surface tablet has not been a success because it is a very limited product which is unable to run transitional Windows software and only has access to a limited number of Surface-specific Apps.

The trend seems to be that businesses will continue to wait before they consider Windows 8, and that Microsoft might have to wait until Windows 9 to reassert its enterprise status. In the meantime, Windows 8 devices will exist primarily within specific business verticals that can benefit from mobility, such as retail departments and mobile sales teams.

There is evidence that some companies are investigating Windows 8 but it is only happening in small "pockets". The problem is that few businesses have found anything urgent enough to compel them to begin widespread deployments. Microsoft is a victim of the success of Windows 7 while Forrester reports that clients perceive Windows 8 with a lacklustre enthusiasm. Apple's iPad is perceived as being simpler and more secure to support.

Microsoft Windows 8 is a complex beast, perhaps too complex for the modern world of streamlined and agile tablets and smartphones that scale their operating systems to fit the demands of a mobile device. Windows 8 is still perceived as complex, requiring user training and app redevelopment. It may be too much work for companies to move to Windows 8 at a time when there are simpler, cheaper, and more entrenched mobile solutions available.

Windows 8's touch-centric interface can only be fully utilized and appreciated on new hardware that supports touch and faster processors. Organizations have decided it makes more financial sense to upgrade conservatively. Upgrading for the sake of upgrading with no financial or productivity improvement does not make any business sense, especially when the costs are significant.

Windows 8 only offers performance or productivity enhancements for those employees whose jobs are mobile. For the most common business tasks, Windows 7 is good enough.

With computing moving toward touchscreen mobile devices and away from laptops and desktops, Microsoft found itself without a strong enough foothold in the marketplace to succeed in the new mobile computing context. Android and iOS have both succeeded by their presence in the consumer-driven mobile space by gradually conditioning all users to become familiar with their new touch interface.

Microsoft may not have been expecting high enterprise sales, but was hoping for better consumer engagement. Unfortunately the launch of the Windows 8 tablet appears to have been dampened by the arguably better Android and iOS tablets that are already selling well.

Microsoft's Second Wave: Preparing for Windows 8 in the Enterprise

Microsoft is preparing an update called Windows Blue. This release will include interface tweaks and is intended to galvanize adoption. Blue is vapourware. It is not even clear if Blue is a codename for Windows 9 or possibly a service pack.

Rumours from ZDNet suggest that Blue will extend beyond PCs and tablets to other Microsoft platforms, such as Windows Phone 8, SkyDrive and Windows Server. Blue is about laying the groundwork for the future through a cohesive multi-platform strategy. In other words Microsoft is building a more Apple-like ecosystem because Apple has the customers everyone wants.

The rumours indicate that Microsoft is moving towards annual incremental updates that more closely resembles Apple's OS X updates. Gone are the multi-year refresh cycles Microsoft is famous for. Microsoft's old release strategy is much too slow for the fast-paced mobile ecosystem.

Strategy Updates Are Required

Analysts want Microsoft to focus on simplicity and ease of deployment.

Analysts also want Microsoft to stop protecting the Windows desktop franchise by letting it go. If Microsoft doesn't, there are fears that their protection of the Windows desktop will damage the future of Windows.

In the mobile world, Microsoft's true value will be from apps such as Office, which should be made available to other platforms in the spirit of true mobile multi-screen computing.