A year from now Microsoft will either be a significant mobile and tablet player due to Windows 8 or it will be losing market share. And the outcome may boil down to Microsoft's relationship with hardware partners.
That's a takeaway from Gartner analyst David Cearley. His top 10 strategic technology trends included a hefty dose of Windows 8 cast in a mobile context.
Cearley moved to clarify the research firm's take that 90 percent of companies won't adopt Windows 8 in 2013. "Ninety percent of companies won't adopt Windows 8 in 2013, but that doesn't mean that 90 percent won't adopt it," said Cearley. "Windows 8 is Microsoft's anchor point for mobile as well as a cross-over experience."
But the adoption of Windows 8 will be slow. "Enterprises will evaluate Windows 8 as part of a mobile strategy," he said.
Putting Windows 8 in a mobile frame changes everything. Why? Google---not Microsoft---has the OEM relationships on the mobile front. There will be more Android powered hardware than Microsoft can match.
In other words, Windows 8 needs a form factor that's a hit and can bring along other partners. "One of the most important battles over the next year isn't Microsoft vs. the Apple and the iPad. It's Microsoft vs. Google in various markets. Can Microsoft win over OEMs?" said Cearley. "This is where the Surface comes into play. Microsoft is trying to walk a balance."
Sure, Windows 8 is more enterprise friendly, but consumers will determine the operating system's fate, he said. "If Windows 8 is suboptimal with consumers there will be challenges," said Cearley.
In a nutshell, Windows 8 could see challenges in the beginning with its app selection and ecosystem and how quick it iterates will determine Microsoft's success.
"Microsoft will face significant challenges next year if it doesn't execute," said Cearley. "If it addresses consumer traction it may see share grow."