Toshiba: 99 percent of our business sales are Windows 7

Toshiba: 99 percent of our business sales are Windows 7

Summary: The PC maker, which recently revamped its range of business devices, says Windows 8 has barely made a dent in its enterprise customer base, despite the push away from Windows XP.

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TOPICS: Windows
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Toshiba: "There are pockets within corporations running Windows 8." (Image: CNET)

"Tell us something we don't know," you're probably saying.

Windows 8 is slowly making its way to millions of desktops, laptops, and tablets around the world. Despite a marginal increase in its usage share by roughly a percentage point each month, it still has an install base of many tens of millions.

But Microsoft's success in the software space is on the most part at the behest of the device manufacturers — one being Toshiba, which has, according to latest Gartner figures, a declining worldwide PC share of 5.7 percent. In the second quarter, it shipped about 850,000 desktops and notebooks.

In spite of its fifth-place position (according to IDC, the company doesn't even register in the top five PC manufacturers), it's nevertheless a good indicator of what's going on in the wider PC market.

I spoke last week to Toshiba's B2B product marketing manager Cindy Zwerling about, among many things, what the PC maker is seeing in terms of customer needs, and in particular, what enterprise customers are doing ahead of the looming April 2014 cut-off date for Windows XP customers.

It comes just as the PC maker introduced a refreshed line-up of its Portégé range of business devices.

She explained, first and foremost, that most enterprise customers are either in the midst of or have just completed their migration to Windows 7. But Windows 8 remains "some distant plan in the future," likely to be pushed on by the soon-to-be-released Windows 8.1, which will be out by the end of October. 

"Windows 7 is clearly the enterprise operating system at this time," she said. "But there are pockets of the corporate population that use [detachable] tablets, and might be running Windows 8."

"But for your standard clamshell notebook? It's Windows 7," she added.

"From a business perspective, I would say 99 percent of our sales are Windows 7," she explained, noting that it was "clearly" the best operating system at the moment for the business market, and was why Toshiba loaded it on its new systems.

"At this point, there are few exceptions in corporate America in the enterprise space for Windows 8," she added.

Enterprise customers 'not thinking' about Windows 8 right now

Toshiba offers a bevy of devices running Windows 8, including most of its notebook range. While these are generally marketed towards consumers, its business line-up tends to focus on giving the option to run Windows 7. Enterprise customers are also able to choose Windows 8, and in some cases Windows 8.1, instead.

Zwerling said the focus was on "Windows XP to Windows 7," and not Windows XP to Windows 8. 

Describing a migration, Zwerling said: "It's huge undertaking in most organizations — resource wise, time wise — and for them to think of another upgrade right around the corner," referring to Windows 8, "that's not something [enterprise customers] are even thinking about right now."

One of the primary reasons is many enterprise customers were skittish by the Windows XP end-of-life deadline in April 2014, and began their migration to Windows 7. But also, Microsoft doesn't make it all that easy — though, far from impossible.  

Also, Windows 8's user interface was a tough hurdle for many enterprise customers accustomed to Windows XP to jump to. Windows 7 still had a relatively familiar design, but the way the upgrade paths were structured did not make the migration entirely seamless.

That said, Windows 8.1 comes with a range of new features, such as boot-to-desktop and the Start menu, which will likely make the transition not as jarring for new users. 

According to ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft previously advised that though Windows XP and Vista-running machines may be able to support the next-generation Windows 8.1, they do not recommend they upgrade. "That doesn't mean users can't do this or that Microsoft won't support users who opt to do this," she wrote. "They're just advising against it, claiming that the older hardware plus Windows 8.1 won't make for an optimal experience."

'No plans' for Windows RT

Earlier this year, Toshiba made headlines when one of its Australian executives claimed Microsoft caused a "lot of confusion with Windows 8," notably in regards to how it differentiated between the marketing of its two platforms: Windows 8 for Intel-based machines, and Windows RT for ARM-based devices. 

It came at a time when the PC maker was just beginning to sell Windows 8, because it still had Windows 7 stock in its inventory it wanted to sell.

According to IDC's Jay Chou a few weeks ago: "Advances in PC hardware, such as improvements in the power efficiency of x86 processors remain encouraging, and Windows 8.1 is also expected to address a number of well-documented concerns."

This is something Toshiba executives agree on. It's also a backslap to Windows RT, which the PC maker said it has "no plans" to produce a tablet running the beleaguered platform any time soon, according to Zwerling. She noted that the company's customers "need a full x86-based unit" and a "full operating system," suggesting between-the-lines that Windows RT was less than par and not up to the job.

Many agree, however. Windows RT has limitations and cannot run the full array of desktop applications that many need. She argued that the platform is "not something that is even discussed in the corporate or enterprise space."

With Toshiba snubbing Windows RT, just a few days after Dell announced it would bail on its own range of ARM-powered laptops, it leaves just Microsoft developing its own Windows RT-based devices under its Surface moniker.

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Topic: Windows

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75 comments
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  • if they aren't buying touch screens

    then IT shops aren't going to get any value from Windows 8, with a lot of confused users to boot. Like you said, not a surprise.
    Mac_PC_FenceSitter
    • The UI / hardware mismatch psychological problem

      Hindsight is 20/20; that said, I believe MS should have only allowed Windows 8 to be sold on touch based PCs. Selling Windows 8 on non-touch based PCs has been a mess. It would be like Apple selling some iPads with touchscreens, and other iPads without touchscreens. The inconsistency would have caused the same kind of confusion we are now seeing in the PC market. Along with the confusion, there is the same basic problem MS experienced with Windows 7 on touchscreen devices: there is a mismatch between the touch oriented Win 8 OS, and non-touch oriented hardware, from a psychological point of view. MS engineers were right that from a functional point of view, that Win 8 is a touch first UI, which can be used with a mouse and keyboard, in lieu of touch. But I don't believed they factored in well how users would react psychologically to the UI / hardware mismatch. I believe MS should ASAP, restrict the selling of PCs with integrated screens, to be able to use Windows 8, only if the screens on these devices are touch based. If the screens on these devices are not touch based, they should use Windows 7.

      I don't see how the above policy can hurt PC sales. I believe it can only make sales better, along with promoting touch based Windows systems first at retail, and non-touch based systems second.
      P. Douglas
      • Worst analogy ever.

        First off, your iPad analogy might be the worst analogy I have ever heard. You are comparing using Windows 8 on a non-touchscreen laptop (this comment is being written by one) to using a tablet, who's only form of input is a touchscreen, without a touchscreen. How does that even compare? Using an iPad without a touchscreen would be impossible, using Windows 8 without a touchscreen is not.

        Also Microsoft does realize the importance of a touch screen on the laptops. In Microsoft's stores every laptop or desktop they have is touchscreen. Did Microsoft discount the psychological reaction to a new UI, definitely not.

        That being said I would definitely take Windows 8 on a non-touchscreen laptop over Windows 7 because the performance of Windows 8 has been much better in my experience. I think the UI doesn't add nor detract from the experience. Under the hood though I think it blows Windows 7 out of the water.
        dmacke
        • Some clarification

          Regarding my iPad analogy, what I meant was, suppose Apple developed the iPad similar to Surface machines with keyboard covers, but where some iPads came with touch screens and others did not; how do you think users would react? The problem is that Apple would be introducing a machine having two fundamental user experiences: one set based primarily around touch, and another set based primarily around the mouse and keyboard. The above would introduce one source of confusion. Many would ask, why didn't Apple go for a single, consistent, fundamental user experience instead of two? Then there is the matter of using hardware oriented for one type of user experience, with a UI oriented for another type of user experience. That is kind of like pouring water from a can of salmon, on a steak dinner as gravy. Now it is true that it is possible for people to acquire the taste over time, but the initial reaction for many would be starkly negative - and this is arguably the largest barrier to Windows 8 adoption.

          The following two videos show very popular reactions to Windows 8 on non touch vs. touch machines.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4VtNLl6Ca4

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQH49N1l-Ro
          P. Douglas
          • This is not a vaild point

            Apple's entire econ system is around consistency. As long as you do things Apple's way, you're good. Want to watch your iDevice on TV? Get an Apple TV, otherwise you can't. They don't support any other feature. Imagine going to your boss and saying you wanted a new laptop and that required them to change their entire server setup and application deployment strategy. They would laugh you out of the office. So Apple is awesome if you buy all Apple, and not even workable if you don't. Windows 8 supports legacy and all forms of interactive solutions. Heck, they are running a mini Chrome OS inside Windows 8. If you did that on Apple, you'd never be able to install it (because Apple would want 30% of your profits to allow you to do that).

            Apple would never be inconsistent, yet they wouldn't ever allow you to do anything that's "inconsistent" according to their world. Their response is if your business doesn't work on Apple, change your business.
            A Gray
          • I was not saying Apple would do what I described

            I was not saying Apple would do what I described, I was merely indicating the consequences to Apple, if it did what I described.
            P. Douglas
        • Maybe boot to desktop will work

          Maybe if OEMs configured Windows 8.1 to boot to desktop by default on non-touch based systems, that would alleviate the big problem with Windows 8. OEMs still need to make putting out touch based systems a priority, because that is where the computing market is headed.
          P. Douglas
          • Still think Win 8+ belongs only on touch devices

            Actually booting to desktop does not solve the problem of a user's long term prospect with Windows 8. The user's long term path to growth in the OS is in the Metro environment, and the experience is going to be subpar on a non touch device, and may be disappointing or irritating to the user. Boot to desktop probably makes more sense on an upgraded older machine, with a more limited life span.
            P. Douglas
    • Win8 has a lot to offer IT. Better security, fewer reboots

      Win8 has some new technology that helps security. It does a better job with memory randomization than Win7. Which makes it harder to attack. I find that it reboots less on patches (still not as good in this department as linux). And the ability to have your setup move around from PC to PC just by logging in is really nice.

      Fast reboot is also nice for IT people when servicing computers. less time waiting around.

      I have Win8 on 3 computers at home none have a touch screen. Works fine once you get used to doing things the Win8 way which I now prefer.
      DevGuy_z
      • I thought implementation suffered, but not to that degree.

        It that figure is correct, it's pretty dismal. One post here even disparaged Toshiba hardware.

        I have an older 16" Toshiba Celeron notebook I bought several years ago at Walmart for under $300 as a "Back to School" special. It originally came with Vista.

        I upgraded the memory and installed a 500 Gb HDD. My older daughter took it over years ago and still uses it every day for several hours. It only has an older version of Linux Mint, I believe version 8 with the current version being 15. Mint has a new version every 6 months like Ubuntu..

        Linux has never needed AV or been infected the entire time. Toshiba is a quality product with value off the scale in this case. It's heavy, the CPU cooling fan has stopped working, with no ill effects. I think the CPU clock speed is slow enough to function well without a fan and not overheat.

        When I purchase hard drives, I always try to get 7,200 RPM, perpendicular recording and FDB (Fluid Dynamic Bearing Technology) which gives a three fold increase in hard drive life (MTBF). Surprisingly, after all these years, the display is still very bright, using CCFD, before LED backlighting became popular. This drive specification provides a marked increase in performance and reliability is an inexpensive upgrade over the stock drive.

        I still regard Toshiba as a premium product.
        Joe.Smetona
    • Blech. The LAST thing I need to deal with is

      the hassle of having to reach up and touch my screen every few minutes. What genius thought that was an ergonomic breakthrough?
      baggins_z
      • I Remember

        I remember when people said the same thing about the mouse compared to the cursor keys. Then they complained about 2 buttons instead of one. You will figure it out one of these days that the guy was really a genius.
        MichaelInMA
      • I worked with CAD programs since 1981.

        If you had to create engineering drawings with CAD 8-10 hours a day with a touch screen, you would go nuts. The best input device for repetitive input is not a mouse either, it's the Wacom, Small Bamboo digitizer pad and (battery free) stylus usually selling for under $70.
        Joe.Smetona
        • You can hold the stylus and easily touch type with it in your hand.

          That's significant. It reduces fatigue because you just go back and forth seamlessly between typing and digitizing. Your hand is always in a natural, relaxed position. It's better than a mouse because you have to let go of the mouse to type. Using a touch screen for repetitive operations like CAD would be off the scale horrible.
          Joe.Smetona
        • Early CAD systems like CALMA and ComputerVision had wired styluses.

          They usually had multiple push buttons on the side for functions.
          Joe.Smetona
    • Exactly. No surprise at all.

      Putting two completely different interfaces on any device is crazy. Do your microwaves, televisions, or automobiles have two completely different interfaces toggling back and forth constantly? Should we start selling cars where pressing the foot brake simply pops a hand brake out of the dash for you to use? That's what the "Start" button does now. It's jarring, slows you down, and interrupts long-established habits. On top of that, it's a pointless and useless change for the desktop.

      Corporations don't want to do anything to reduce the productivity of their workers. Win 8 on the desktop is a mishmash of interfaces that interrupts the workflow of highly productive people in their companies. It's a given that they would avoid desktop Windows 8 like the plague. Like me, they plan to ride Windows 7 as long as they possibly can. At some point, hopefully Microsoft will feel the pressure and rethink their desktop strategy.

      The speed improvements in Windows 8 are nice, but Metro should never have been put on desktops and a beefed-up Windows Phone 8 should have been their tablet and phone OS.
      BillDem
      • You're not seeing the big picture

        Within a release or two, Metro will be the same on phones, tablets and laptops. So one dev with be able to deploy to all of these. After that, XBox will be included. The desktop is a productivity platform. Metro is a consumer-based platform.

        Who whole "ride platform X as long as they can" is the same corporate philosophy that allows big companies to suddenly be crushed by a 2 million dollar startup. The ability to adapt and be agile makes our company successful. Being "stuck" with old view will ultimately be a diservice to you and your company.

        Microsoft did this with mobile and now they are suddenly scrambling to catch up. Who would ahve thought that Google would be ruling a mobile OS or that Apple could come back from obscurity to be the biggest company in the world?
        A Gray
        • Re: Metro will be the same on ...

          .. and nobody will be using it.
          danbi
  • Windows 8 is expensive

    License is cheap but when start button goes away users need extensive training and psychological help. I have seen people's heads explode after they used metro interface unprepared.
    paul2011
    • Heads explode?

      I could buy spontaneous combustion but heads exploding? Nope not buying it.
      greywolf7