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Small businesses on fence about Windows 8 upgrades

New data collected by Australian accounting software company MYOB suggests just 12 percent will make the switch within six months.
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Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

There is plenty of intrigue surrounding Microsoft's long-term operating system strategy given the sudden and dramatic departure this week of strategist Steve Sinofsky

Kind of makes you wonder just how much of a disaster the Windows 8 release is becoming for the company.

Analysts categorize overall adoption as "mixed" at best – but that's mostly for consumer and enterprise sales. What about the here and now of whether or not small businesses are upgrading to Windows 8?

A new survey by Australian accounting company MYOB offers some insight, suggesting that most smaller companies are still on the fence about upgrading.

The company's latest edition of its ongoing MYOB Insights Panel found that just 12 percent of the respondents are ready to switch within the next six months, according to published reports about the data.

Another 43 percent of the respondents weren't really sure when they would make the move.

This finding is somewhat at odds with a survey that Staples conducted among about 500 American small-business owners in June. 

Approximately 70 percent of the companies that were aware of Windows 8 already had upgrade plans. Mind you, that was four months ago, though, and there hasn't been a follow-up survey on who actually followed through.

Similarly, I've just been reading some Forrester Research adoption analysis, which also points to a very slow first year for upgrades into 2014 – just in time for Windows 9!

Seriously, though, if your small business is mulling a Windows 8 migration, you should keep the following in mind:

Are your employees ready to handle the new interface? If tablets are well-established, the answer is probably "yes," but people are bound to be confused over the concept of a "touch-enabled" menu.

Do your main business applications require Windows 8, or will they be messed up by it? The new interface and development model underlying the OS will require many existing apps to be rebuilt for Windows 8. Are yours ready?

How reliant is your company on cloud applications? If the answer is "very," then how important is the OS on any given desktop or notebook computer?

Speaking of which, what is your company's reliance on mobile devices? If your business is using tablet computers – or starting to use them heavily – you might want to consider the fact that Microsoft still accounts for a very small piece of that market. It won't hit the 30 percent mark until 2016, according to Forrester's estimates. 

Ultimately, Windows 8 is important for Microsoft because it acknowledges the emergence of non-traditional devices such as smartphones and tablets and other things that we haven't seen yet - and makes them far easier to manage. The company's top management is right to hope for healthy sales in the weeks after the launch, but the magnitude of this upgrade sort of works against that.

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