Windows 8 goes on sale to the public tomorrow. But a good many of Microsoft's most important customers will greet the news with a yawn.
Businesses won't buy Windows 8 right away. Maybe never.
Market research firm Gartner says that 90% of companies globally have no plans to deploy Windows 8 in a big way, and probably won't until at least 2014.
If Windows 8 is another flop like Vista, they may opt to skip it altogether and stick with Windows 7.
There's a lot of reasons for this.
1. Windows 8 would require every PC user to be retrained. Microsoft has changed nearly everything about how users interact with computers with Windows 8. It hasn't made even the simple stuff easy to figure out—like how to open and close files and see which apps you have open. Calls would flood help desks.
2. Windows 8 doesn't have a lot of great new features for the enterprise. Microsoft really geared Windows 8 for consumers. The list of new features for enterprise users is thin and not enough to make them want retrain employees.
3. Windows 8 can't natively run older Windows apps. Corporations own billions of dollars worth of older Windows software that they use to run their businesses. Any program that runs in Windows 7 can run on Windows 8, but only in "Desktop Mode." Desktop mode is essentially a clunky, harder-to-use version of Windows 7 with missing features like the "Start" button. Why upgrade to Windows 8 and retrain your users, only to have your apps run in a less-functional version of Windows 7?
4. Very few enterprise software programs have been rewritten to run as Windows 8 apps. If there were important apps that were only available for Windows 8, that might drive companies to upgrade. But there aren't. Enterprise software makers aren't going to take that on until Windows 8 is a hit.
5. Windows 8 is REALLY awkward on older PCs. If a machine doesn't have a touchscreen—and most Windows 7 machines do not—then users are forced to do all the touchscreen controls with a mouse. It's awkward. Businesses that want to use Windows 8 should buy new touchscreen PCs. Companies tend to refresh their PCs on three-to-five year cycles, not just because a new operating system becomes available.
6. Many companies have only recently upgraded to Windows 7. It will be two to five years before they'll want to refresh their PCs again.
7. Corporations will want to wait for bug fixes. Even if a companies wants Windows 8, few of them will upgrade before the first "service pack," which typically comes a year after the original release. A service pack fixes all the bugs and performance issues found with new software.
8. Companies can "downgrade" to older versions of Windows. Businesses which sign deals with Microsoft can still easily get a new PC and install Windows 7 on it. Microsoft gets paid the same.
9. New technologies allow them to run virtual, cloud-based Windows machines. Companies don't even need to install software on desktop PCs anymore. They can deliver a complete Windows desktop as an app through the cloud. Many users have begun to bring their own devices to work and more companies are planning to deliver work applications this way, with no care about the operating system on the user's PC.
There will still be corporations that buy some Windows 8 PCs, particularly for road warriors who need tablets. But a massive upgrade to Windows 8 by corporate America? Not going to happen anytime soon.
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