Toshiba: 99 percent of our business sales are Windows 7

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.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor
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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