With Windows 8 in enterprises, it's increasingly looking like a Tale of Two Versions.
Despite having an entrenched user base of hundreds of millions of potentially-upgradeable PCs, CIOs and other IT leaders are showing more interest in Windows 8 on tablets and convertible devices that some are nicknaming 'tabtops' or 'laptablets' (see my gallery of seventeen of the hottest Windows 8 tablets).
Nevertheless, 90% of IT leaders surveyed by Gartner said they won't deploy Windows 8 in any major way through 2014, or two years after launch.
"We really don't think Windows 8 will get significant traction as a PC OS in a corporate environment," Gartner analyst Steve Kleynhans told Redmond magazine.
Apart from some exceptions, most companies are are too preoccupied with upgrading their PCs from Windows XP to Windows 7 to think about Windows 8.
Take Interstate Batteries. The company is in the midst of upgrading its 750 Windows-using employees to Windows 7.
Merv Tarde, CIO at Interstate Batteries, says he's given Windows 8 little thought.
"Right now, the answer would be 'no' to a rollout of Windows 8," he told CITEworld.
Microsoft's pouring energy and dollars into Windows 8 on tablets like these.
Of course, large enterprises have always dragged their feet on Windows OS upgrades, sure that they can always catch up with another version later. But CIOs are holding off even more than normal, for which I can only blame the impact of the Post-PC era.
A Forrester Research survey of North American and European IT leaders found that only 4% had specific plans to deploy Windows 8 in the next 12 months, with another 5% planning to deploy it, though not before the end of Q3 2013. 47 per cent hadn’t looked at Windows 8 yet.
“There’s about half the interest at this point in the early cycle of Windows 8 than there was for Windows 7 among IT decision makers," Forrester analyst David Johnson told IT World Canada at the Windows 8 launch in New York City last week.
Brian Greenberg, vice-president of technology operations for Total Attorneys told CITEworld that the "shock and awe of a pretty GUI" isn't enough to compel him to upgrade the cloud application vendor's PCs to Windows 8.
"I care about how it works and whether it will enable the people who work here to be more efficient and better at their jobs," he said. "I see no evidence of that and I haven’t read any evidence about that, but I admit I haven’t researched it that heavily yet."
Skipping Windows 8 doesn't necessarily mean many CIOs are ready today to completely jump off the Windows train for iPads and Google Chromebooks.
"On one hand, Microsoft helps us be more productive, but on the other hand we're kind of locked in," Michael Harte, CIO of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, told ZDNet. "Until we have a credible competitor in the likes of Google Enterprise or somebody else, it's hard to think of a world where we're not destined to keep upgrading as Microsoft upgrades us."
The view is different among small businesses. While they have less technical resources than enterprises, small businesses are also more agile. Upgrading to Windows 8 can be as easy and stress-free as buying a bunch of new employee laptops on Newegg.
As a result, 33% of small businesses are thinking about upgrading to Windows 8 for their PCs, according to a new survey sponsored by tech support supplier, iYogi Insights.
On tablets, 38% of iPad-using organizations are considering migrating to Windows 8 tablets, while 45% of Android-tablet-using organizations are considering migrating to Windows 8.
Windows 8 on tablets
You've heard that old Chinese proverb that every crisis is an opportunity in disguise? That's what tablets are for Redmond today.
While Microsoft lags Apple today, it also means that every Windows 8 user it wins, especially those in enterprises, represents lucrative incremental revenue for Redmond.
And Microsoft, with its partners, is expected to take a big bite out of Apple's lead. IDC, for instance, expects almost 30 million Windows 8 and RT tablets to be sold in 2016, representing 11% of the market. That's the same market share the iPad will hold by then, predicts IDC, which expects Android tablets to zoom past iOS and grab 31% share.
SAP CIO Oliver Bussmann thinks that Windows tablets have come a long way since their first wave a decade ago. While he says he's getting "mixed messages" about how ready Windows 8 tablets are to supplant iOS and Android today, he plans to support and deploy Windows 8 tablets soon.
Enterprises that have already started deploying Windows 8 - mostly with assistance from Microsoft - are even more enthusastic.
"I’m hearing a lot less struggle with managing the Windows 8 devices than I have about iPads," Brian Ranger, general manager for systems and technology at PCL Construction, told the Wall Street Journal. PCL, the 6th largest construction firm in the U.S., has given out 125 Windows 8 tablets to company foremen and plans to deploy thousands more.
BT, aka British Telecom, is shifting from ruggedized Windows 7 laptops and handheld devices for its 4,000-strong field engineers, arming them instead with Windows 8 convertible lap-tablets that have both touchscreens and keyboards.
"The appeal for me is taking the old world and bringing it to the new," Peter Scott, director of end user computing at BT, told ZDNet.
Windows 8's security was the reason cited by Twentieth Century Fox to build its tablet marketing app on the platform.
"It was easy to hook into our existing security solutions, which include watermarks and DRM." Tanya Tallino, vice-president for enterprise information technology at the studio, told InformationWeek.
The downsides of Windows 8, according to early adopters? Fox's Tallino cited the lack of compatibility with some existing applications. And training for Windows 8, even on touchscreen devices, is no piece of cake, says Stephen Landry, CIO of Seton Hall University.
"Faculty struggled. Where's the start menu?" Landry told ZDNet.
Seton Hall is one of the rare organizations which is standardizing on Windows 8 for both tablets as well as PCs. While Landry agrees that Seton Hall's single-platform strategy will be too confining for most enterprises, he says it provides the university the most benefit for the buck.
"Until technology evolves that will allow us to provide the same level of support in a diverse environment, or our community is willing to accept greater responsibility for their own technical support, our objective is to provide the best technology package for the price we’re able to pay," Landry wrote in a letter to this blog.
Speaking of which, my SAP colleague Alison Welch George has a Halloween-themed infographic depicting the spookiest things for CIOs managing multiple device platforms. Right-click to download the awesome infographic below or get the Forrester Research paper it's based upon here.