Windows 8: Think You Can Skip It? Think Again.

Windows 8: Think You Can Skip It? Think Again.

Summary: My colleague Benjamin Gray and I have been looking closely at Windows 8 for the past several months to make sure we have a clear understanding of what it means for I&O organizations, leaders, and professionals. We have been briefed in depth by Microsoft executives, program managers, and engineers.


My colleague Benjamin Gray and I have been looking closely at Windows 8 for the past several months to make sure we have a clear understanding of what it means for I&O organizations, leaders, and professionals. We have been briefed in depth by Microsoft executives, program managers, and engineers. We have downloaded, installed, and used the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, and we have had hundreds of conversations with I&O professionals in the past year on Windows 7 (and now Windows 8 ) adoption — from those looking for guidance, as well as those with strong opinions already formed. As you might expect, we have formed some opinions of our own.

For those who haven't talked with Ben Gray, he is a fantastic authority on Windows adoption trends with complete mastery of the data. He has closely watched Windows Vista, Windows 7, and now Windows 8 go through the cycles of preparation, migration, adoption, and operation. Ben was the first at Forrester to point out that Windows 8 is an "off-cycle release," coming too soon on the heels of Windows 7 for companies to be ready to adopt it. He and I authored a document on Windows adoption trends for 2012, which will be published shortly and provides additional data and context. Ben has also dissected the Forrsights Workforce Employee survey data in dozens of ways, and he delivers a fantastic presentation for Forrester customers on what he's learned.

For my part, I look at Windows 8 from a migration and operations perspective, and I have been directly involved with Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7 migrations for many firms over the past 15 years. There has been plenty of press suggesting that Windows 8 will be the next Vista, but there are many reasons why I don't think that will be the case. When I look at Windows 8, I see a very different situation than any previous Windows release.

Vista was not adopted by most organizations in part because it didn't add enough new value or cure pain that end users cared about. XP was a strong release way back in 2001 that solved both IT operational pain and pain for end users while delivering better reliability and new features that they valued. Looking at Forrsights data, which shows that Windows 7 will be installed on 83% of new corporate PCs deployed by the end of 2012, and with the added understanding that most firms have spent up to 11 years on Windows XP, we conclude that Windows 8 is at risk of being skipped by IT organizations, already strained by the costly and recent upgrade to Windows 7. Except . . .

. . . we don't think Windows 8 will be skipped by workers. Why? It's an enabler for those who want to use multiple devices, such as a tablet, smartphone, and a PC, and we believe that the workers who value tight integration between their devices are highly influential people in many organizations, which means Windows 8 stands a good chance of being driven by IT consumers more than Vista was. In an earlier blog, I introduced Jamie — a HERO with the power to force change. We believe this same persona will be attracted to the new Windows 8 Metro UI, and the potential for tighter integration between their devices. If this proves true when Windows 8 is released, I&O organizations can expect a heavy demand to support it from workers. HEROs have been the spark plugs of workforce computing change since the IBM PC. If they decide they like Windows 8, you do not want to be caught unprepared.

What should you do now to prepare? Whatever you do, do not delay Windows 7 migration plans. When we look at the technical underpinnings of Windows 8, it has much in common with Windows 7, which we believe will mean much better application compatibility between Windows 7 and Windows 8 than there is between XP and Windows 7. That means that firms should find it less costly and easier to support mixed Windows 7 and 8 environments, with the notable exception of apps that fully leverage Metro. More on this topic when we understand how quickly the application development community picks up Metro in their product releases. For now, firms should be putting the hammer down on (accelerating) Windows XP to 7 migration plans as top priority.

Second, it's time to secure commitment from your software vendors — especially client management, security, and critical productivity tools — for Windows 8 support. Document the commitments and make sure they are represented in contract renewals with all key hardware and software vendors through 2012.

Third, get educated on Windows 8 now. You will need to understand migration, deployment, app compatibility, and all of the technical changes you can absorb. Most of all, get educated on what it will offer your HEROs and choose a few things that you can offer them right away when the demand hits. Know how to configure Outlook and deploy email profiles to Windows tablets and smartphones. Develop a client virtualization strategy with help from Ben Gray or me that will allow you to support consumerized Windows 8 devices with minimal impact to your existing environment, just to name two.

Topics: Software, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Windows

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  • Master Joe Says...Agreed

    I made a YouTube video on my channel a couple of months ago that said the same thing. People underestiamte the power of being able to use the same interface and apps across the various gadgets they are familiar with. If Microsoft plays its cards right, it could allow for even non-technical environments to utilize functionality, both professionally and from the consumer standpoint in entertainment and allow people to do things like sync a presentation or important information from their PC at their desk to their tablet before going to a meeting or into the field, or allow a consumer to sync a video they were streaming to continue watching on their tablet so they can leave the house to get on the bus or other form of public transportation on their way to work. Honestly, unifying the Windows platform seems to have been overlooked by many, and it seems as though that is sort of the "secret weapon" in all of this for Microsoft. People are too busy bashing Windows 8 because it is different. But, do they really know the facts? People still bash Vista to no end, but they talk about how great Windows 7 is. From a UI perspective, they are almost identical. People used to bash XP when it first came out, and now many refuse to let it go and won't until the desupport of XP takes its full effect in a couple years.

    In any case, I agree with your opinion that Windows 8 may not be adopted right away in corporations. But, I do see a lot of POTENTIAL for consumer adoption. Whether or not it will actually happen on a large scale is something that only time will tell.

    --Master Joe
    • same interface and apps across the various gadgets they are familiar with

      That only works well if the interface is capable of doing the job you need done. Metro is not suitable for most non-mobile work environments.
      • Didn't you get the news?

        Desktops have been on the decline for a while now, so it's not surprising that they're targeting mobile applications.

        Take a look at the screen resolution survey that they did: ~45% of Windows systems are 1366x768, and there are no desktop monitors that support that resolution (that I can find anyway).
      • Who cares

        It's not resolution, totally, it is what the system is capable of.
        Running two notebooks side by side, one Win8, the other Windows7 - I am unable to execute the work I perform today using the same programs. This is totally do to the limitations built into Win8 that does not allow me to open, display and execute in the number of simultaneous windows I need to do my job.
        Unless Win8 will allow me and my peers to do our jobs, it's a no go.
      • How do you mean?

        So if you actually do need multiple windows open at a time, how does Windows 8 on x86 hardware actually prevent you from doing your job?

        (It still has the desktop, or didn't you get that memo too?)
      • Really?

        Because I am running the beta and am staring at a desktop that looks exactly like Win7, and all I had to do was click the "Desktop" icon in the start screen.

      • How do you figure?

        First of all Windows 8 does not get rid of the traditional desktop. Its one click away. So, if you think otherwise, you are stuck on stupid.

        Second of all, have you used a Metro Immersive app? How is it not applicable to a desktop? Desktop apps not usable on Mobile, I can see that, but Metro apps not usable on Desktop? That's just FUD.
      • 1366x768 my laptop, which is mostly a desktop that could unplug.
        (Runs LM, Ubuntu and Bodhi, too.)
    • People think big changes are hard

      I've heard the complaints about retraining for Metro, but I doubt many of those users have really used it. Put the thing in front of a user and tell them to experiment with it for a while and they'll pick up things on their own. Home users do this particularly well. I know many people now that still think that Windows is this complicated thing that if they click the wrong button, they'll screw something up, and I tend to think that in a lot of cases that's true. You get unconfident people that have to have single-click access to their pinned icons to their favourite programs (and websites) on the Windows 7 taskbar or else they just can't "get it". Then you have over-confident people that think they know what they're doing and click on things they shouldn't, whether online or on their computer, often because their neighbour or buddy who also "knows better" told them it's a good idea, but isn't. Both of these scenarios are attractive user propositions for Windows 8. I get the impression that Windows 8 will actually be pretty difficult to completely mangle, whether intentionally or accidentally by the user. You just can't say that about previous versions though - it's pretty easy to download something that is unsigned or go into system settings and change a few options that prevents Windows from working properly. Ditto for the Mac vs. iOS. Metro IE has no plugins or toolbars, so malware writers will have to get creative about drive-by downloads (I'm not saying it's impossible, but they'll have to rethink their strategy with Metro IE 10, which will take some time). The UI is fast and sleek, not to mention informative with live tiles. You now have the curated app store for downloads. Once Windows 8 rolls out, I would say to anyone that I only recommend software from the app store, since developers would either target it with Metro apps (which are fully sandboxed), or they would advertise their certified desktop apps through it which can be guaranteed of compatibility. Anything else (such as business LOB apps) would be handled on a case-by-case basis, but generally speaking, the app store will be the safest option. ARM devices are more secure still, since they can't install software from any other location.

      People said that Windows 95 was crap too when Windows 3.1 was the norm. Those customers wanted to use Program Manager on Windows 95 in place of the Start Menu, and File Manager in place of Windows Explorer. Fast forward a few years to Windows XP, and you had users switching back to the Classic Start Menu from Windows 9x-2000. This is a big change, but look at the biggest user base of Windows: average shmucks that don't know squat about computers, use one or two programs/apps at a time (mostly full-screen), and get into security/stability issues really easily. You also have emerging markets where people don't know anything about computers, so they don't get the whole desktop metaphor at all, and certainly can't afford anything but commodity hardware and software. Shouldn't the most widely-used operating system be designed with them in mind?

      I really wonder sometimes about who it is that has the most problems with change. Is it the IT workers that think they need to have access to advanced controls all the time and have to see every little process with eagle eye vision, or the average users that just want something that is quick and super-easy?
      • I tried it, and hate Metro.

        I think the Metro paradigm is utterly useless. The very thought that work systems need an Internet connection, is absurd. Employees do not need to keep up with Facebook, Twitter, etc. People are paid to work, not update their status/post Tweets. The whole big stupid monochromatic Icons is a waste of company resources/time. For the mindless Facebook/Twitter fans, Windows 8 is the best thing available, for people with real lives in the real world, Windows 8 is a waste of time/energy. Your opinion may be different, but this is exactly how I feel.
        Jumpin Jack Flash

        @Junpin Jack Flash:
        Well over half of the United States has a Facebook account. Social networking isn't going anywhere, and MOST companies are in on the idea. Guess you didn't get the memo that people interact with each other via the Internet. You know, since like 1950?

        Metro isn't about social media anyway, you twine ball. It's about a consistent UI across multiple platforms. You probably also hate the Ribbon in Office. And you probably want Clippit back on the screen.

        No one cares how you feel. Market analysis shows that you're about as on course as the Titanic.

        • Newsflash, people are paid to work

          In the work environment, tell me how Metro would be productive, I would love to hear it. Most working environments prohibit the use of social media on company time or company computers. And to the author, saying windows 8 is going to hit corporations because of HERO's and that they like it is BS. I cant see corporations dumping millions of dollars in an OS upgrade that doesnt benefit them. Windows 8 isnt for productivity, its for lounging around, socializing and being a complete handicap to the productive world. I know, I OWN A WINDOWS 8 LAPTOP
          Shaun Walsh
      • Metro for PCs.

        "Once Windows 8 rolls out, I would say to anyone that I only recommend software from the app store, since developers would either target it with Metro apps (which are fully sandboxed), "

        I really hope you don't think that sandboxed apps on a desktop is a good idea? That would make the desktop PC VERY RESTRICTED. For developers it would make the desktop enviroment totally useless. I'd move to Linux straight away, even though it would mean foregoing many applications I have used for years.

        The biggest beneficiary of a closed and governed OS, with sandboxed apps, would be Microsoft, who would be raking in fees and subscriptions for doing very little.
        Jason De Donno
  • Why change your story now Forrester?

    So last November, MS was too late with tablets and now this? How will your story change in another 3 or 4 months? And you expect people to take you seriously?
    Nathan A Smith
  • I will most definitely skip it

    Yes, in fact I'm absolutely sure I'll skip it. Just like I skipped Vista and Windows 7. I've been using Linux both at work and at home since 2005. And my phone is Android.
    @Master Joe :
    When you talk about "consumer adoption" are talking about force feeding the customers with a copy of Windows when they buy a new computer or are you talking about those who don't have any idea what an operating system is when they buy a new computer?
    coco montoya
    • That's great that you use Linux.

      not sure about how that's of any importance.

      I like how you label all consumers as complete idiots, as you seem to feel the only way these idiotic consumers find out about about OS is becuase they are force fed them when they buy a computer.

      It's not like the consumers go "I want that new MS OS I've heard about. Is it really as good as they say?".

      Right, as [b]nobody[/b] ever purchased a new computer because they would also get that new OS they've heard about.

      But then, you could be right - It would explain Android, and why it where it is. People buy cheap phones and basically take whatever OS is on it. 90% of Android users likely have no clue as to what the Android OS is. They just want a cheap phone, and that's what they buy.

      Android is really just being force fed to most people.
      William Farrel
      • you are puting words in my mouth

        I didn't say that the customers are idiots, i just said that the majority of the customers don't know what an operating system is.
        My point with Linux is to show that the author is wrong in his assumption that everybody uses Windows.
        The comparison with Android is stupid. Because if you go to any cell phone vendor you will have a choice of Blackberry, iPhone, Windows phones and Android phones. Compare that with major stores that sell computers. Go to dell or hp and show me the link where you can buy a computer without Windows, you can't even buy a computer without OS at all.
        coco montoya
      • Linux users argument is like...

        Linux users who have been trying to push this argument of "Windows is pushed onto users who don't understand there are other choices besides Windows" are actually making a ludicrous argument for the most part.

        Its not exactly being pushed on anyone really. Given the free price tag of Linux and its ready availability, its not as if anyone is exactly being forced to use Windows. Swapping OS's is not a particularly difficult task, and its not costly.

        Secondly, there are, generally speaking three OS's to choose from, although Linux itself comes in many flavors. The issue being, if your not purchasing Apple, then its either Linux or Windows. At that point saying that Windows is being pushed onto someone is not entirely a great point when the dynamics of the alternative possibility are truly taken into consideration.

        For some really weird reason, Linux advocates seem to think that if you just sat these consumers down and told them in realistic detail about Linux, they would choose Linux over Windows. But that is just pie in the sky thinking obviously. As soon as you start talking about the real and genuine differences they would have to learn, the inability to use Windows based games and software without installing something like Wine, the problems that MAY come up over the following months and years using Linux (of course usually easily solvable for an experienced Linux user; much less so for a novice) and any average Windows user will say "forget it".

        I know Linux users just don't understand, or cannot bring themselves to believe, the problem is there is no real good reason, hence no motivation to switch from Windows to Linux for the average person. Linux users are going to spout off all sorts of reasons why they thought it was a good idea to go to Linux instead of Windows, but for the typical user, those reasons simply do not apply. The only real factor in Linux favor is that its free, but when the answer to the question "what will it solve as opposed to what will I have to learn and do different" is; "it is not going to actually solve anything for you and you are going to have to learn a bunch of new things and do a bunch of things differently" then its an obvious no go.

        Sorry, but its simply a fact and simply the way it is. It is a clear explanation of why Linux just cannot catch on. It matters little what the Linux enthusiast may think differently, its just the fact.
    • The problem and the reality is...

      You speak of force feeding the Windows OS to "those who don't have any idea what an operating system is when they buy a new computer". You act as if you have forgotten the reality that is the foundation of your comment.

      The very people who don't have any idea what an operating system is when they buy a new computer are not going to be people who would want to use Linux in any event. If you don't understand that reality then you had best not be commenting on this topic because you clearly are letting your own self interests blind you to simple realities.

      People who don't have an understanding of what an operating system is are typically going to be Windows users who want to continue using Windows because there is no question to the user friendliness of the OS that actually allows someone to use a computer in a productive way without having to know exactly what an operating system is and what it does.

      I can understand the frustrating circumstance that may create in a Linux user but unfortunately its the way the world works, and if most computer users had to have the same kind of computer savvy knowledge the majority of Linux users have, they may never want to use another computer in their life. For them, knowing about such details in order to use a computer would be somewhat analogous to a carpenter having to know about metallurgy and such in order to use a hammer. They would simply rather not if it really isn't needed. And with Windows, it really isn't needed.
    • Guess what? In 2 years or less, Linux will be coming out with a Metro

      style distro, and all of the "hate Metro" Linux fanboys will be eating crow.