Windows 8 and Business Adoption

You’ve all heard the story. Few businesses are going to deploy Windows 8 in any meaningful numbers for the foreseeable future. And as a result, Windows 7 will become the new Windows XP as corporate customers downgrade to the previous OS version rather than get stuck with Windows 8.

It’s a convincing narrative. And it makes those IT pros and admins who are troubled by the multi-touch, mobile madness in Windows 8 a bit more comfortable about their roles, which can now continue unchanged for another three years. Hopefully, Microsoft will come to its sense by then, right?


Folks, it’s time to reevaluate the conventional wisdom. And while Windows 8 is indeed a glorious mess, I’ve got bad news for the critics. Windows 8 is the future, and it’s here to stay. And if you really believe that it’s terrible, consider the alternatives. It could be a lot worse.

See, Windows 8 is how Microsoft gets its foot in the door of this new mobile device phenomenon that’s sweeping the world. It achieves this by blending the old -- the Windows desktop -- with the new -- that new mobile platform, which I still call Metro -- in a way that works just fine with traditional PCs. Not ideal. But fine.

Microsoft also has a purer version of this mobile vision called Windows RT. You might recall that I previously described Windows RT as the new NT: This is because it offers the same user experience as its contemporary Windows counterpart, while jettisoning legacy deadwood and offering better security. If Windows 8 is a foot in the door, Windows RT is Microsoft kicking that door wide open and not taking prisoners. This is the full frontal assault.

I’ve heard the arguments against Windows 8, and, implicitly, against the ARM-based Windows RT, which is essentially a version of Windows that doesn’t even run (traditional, desktop-based) Windows applications. But these arguments amount to denial, not deep analysis. The Start button is gone, along with the Start menu. The shutdown button is in a different place. And so on.

With a few minutes of experience, you figure it out. Heck, even a three-year-old can use Windows 8. No, I think the arguments against Windows 8 are more about job protectionism and outright ignorance than anything else. I don’t recall anyone bemoaning the lack of a Start menu on the iPad. It’s amazing how people can adapt very quickly when it’s not a Microsoft product.

Here’s the thing. I think normal people are going to love Windows 8, especially on tablet devices. I think they’ll even love Windows RT, if they can get over the lack of compatibility with legacy desktop applications. And this consumer acceptance -- as with smartphones and tablets such as the iPad -- is what will drive corporate adoption of Windows 8 (and Windows RT). And what this means is that yes, maybe relatively few businesses will deploy Windows 8 . . . on existing PCs. But I think many of the next PCs they buy won’t actually be PCs. They’ll be Windows 8 and Windows RT devices.

Those Windows 8 devices will continue to run existing applications, providing a transition to the future. Those who don’t need such a thing can take advantage of thinner, lighter, and more battery-efficient Windows RT devices.

Today, corporate workers are divided between tablets and PCs, and there’s a big push from users to go with the former. But with Windows 8 and Windows RT, you won’t have to choose. You can have both in one device, a tablet that has all the touch-friendly fun stuff of an iPad but can dock to a big screen, keyboard, and mouse and use real, full-featured Office and your in-house applications to get work done.

This future is decidedly superior to doling out iPads and Android devices to some users, and creating an unnecessary divide between the haves and the have-nots. And when you consider that those Apple and Google devices are on a consumer lifecycle -- and are thus replaced every single year whether they need it or -- and don’t come with any pervasive enterprise management capabilities at all beyond basic Exchange ActiveSync support, the outcome is obvious. Windows 8 (and, to a slightly lesser degree, Windows RT) just makes more sense. It’s the best of both worlds, with full support for the management infrastructure you’re already using.

Businesses aren’t going to adopt Windows 8? I’m not buying into that story. And although I do think that Windows 8 and Windows RT will see their biggest successes in the consumer market that has thus far shunned Microsoft in favor of those Apple iPads and Google Android devices, it will offering a compelling story for businesses as well. And it’s a far more compelling story than the competing devices that you’re already allowing into your environments.

To be clear, what I’m talking about here is purely for the business market: I expect Microsoft to evenly split the consumer general computing markets of the future in some way with Apple and Google, in a more heterogeneous situation than the PC market of the past few decades. There’s no reason that Microsoft’s smaller share of a bigger market can’t lead to growth, however. But that’s a story for another day: Check out " Embracing a More Heterogeneous Future" for more.
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