Windows 8 will be 'largely irrelevant' to traditional PC users: IDC

IDC's top 10 system software predictions for 2012 are out. One of them casts doubt on Microsoft's potential market for Windows 8 among traditional PC users.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

It's that time of year: The time when prognosticators get out their crystal balls and make predictions.

The researchers at IDC have just released to their clients their "Worldwide System Infrastructure Software 2012 Top 10 Predictions." (Al Gillen Program VP, System Software, tweeted the list of ten on December 2.)

One of those predictions caught my eye: "Windows 8 Will Launch with Split Success."

IDC analysts didn't mince words about Windows client. "Windows 8 will be largely irrelevant to the users of traditional PCs, and we expect effectively no upgrade activity from Windows 7 to Windows 8 in that form factor," according to IDC's prediction document. (IDC is predicting Windows 8 will be released to manufacturing in time for new Windows 8 PCs to emerge by August 2012, at the latest. And they are very bullish about Windows Server 8's prospects, for what it's worth.)

IDC's skepticism on uptake isn't out of left field. Other company watchers (including yours truly) have wondered about the applicability of the Metro tiled interface on anything other than a tablet. Microsoft officials have hinted there may be some changes on the Windows 8 usability front for those wielding keyboards and mice by the time the Windows 8 beta hits in early 2012. But the developer preview that Microsoft released in September has led to lots of user uncertainty regarding Microsoft's promise that Metro will be just as navigable with a mouse/keyboard as with fingers/stylus.

Giving further weight to IDC's Windows 8 prediction is the fact that many enterprise users have either recently completed their Windows 7 migrations or are in the throes of them and aren't going to be all that excited about undertaking another migration so soon. One large business user I know told me that his company tends to skip every other Windows release and that he was expecting Windows 8 to be largely skippable.

IDC also is predicting Microsoft's success on the Windows 8 tablet front, at least in 2012, will be "disappointing," its prediction document stated. Microsoft has some hefty challenges to overcome in that space, the researchers said.

More from IDC's prediction document (which will be the subject of an IDC Webcast on December 15):

"(T)here will be intense scrutiny on Microsoft's ability to deliver a successful tablet experience aboard both x86-based tablets and on devices running ARM processors. This is a tall order for Microsoft, and while the x86 tablet strategy makes sense as a transitional solution for today's PC users, it will be the ARM-based devices that need to shine and clear a high bar already set by Apple."

This point is echoed by a new Peter Bright post on Ars Technica about last week's rumor that Microsoft might be dropping Desktop App (aka non-Metro app support) on Windows 8 on ARM.

Bright's piece, entitled "Why Microsoft should, and shouldn't, support legacy Windows desktop on ARM," makes the point that with Windows 8, Microsoft is attempting to address the competing wants/needs of both consumers and business users.

"It makes sense to produce at least one Windows SKU that has no legacy desktop, but equally, it makes sense to produce at least one SKU that runs on ARM and does include the legacy desktop," Bright argued.

My Twitter chums and readers seemed last week to be pretty equally split on whether it would be a good idea for Microsoft to drop Desktop App support in Windows 8 on ARM. Microsoft's ultimate decision on that front would have some impact on traditional PC users, but not enough to spur -- or deter -- them from upgrading, in my view. Do you agree?

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