IT will skip Windows 8 as the enterprise standard. So says a new Forrester Research report penned by David K. Johnson that goes by the same name.
"Windows 8 is the boldest release of the OS since Windows 95. Microsoft chose to discard the Start button in favor of a new look designed to tie together the PC, tablet, and, smartphone experience," Johnson wrote. But he noted that the "unorthodox offering" drives IT leaders to ask a number of questions.
Those questions include: Is Windows 8's new interface too far of a departure for some employees to learn, and will there even be any employee demand for it? Does Windows 8 offer enough new value to justify migration investments, and if so, when, and across which devices?
The report goes on to explain why Forrester believes most businesses will not adopt Windows 8 as their primary standard, but must be prepared to meet employee "bring your own device" demand. The latter point lines up with a recent Gartner report suggesting that half of companies will mandate BYOD for employees.
The UI Beef
Windows 8 started out of the gate with disadvantages. Usability guru Jakob Nielsen set the stage for the complaints with a review that tore the operating system to shreds last November.
Nielsen didn't like what he deemed a reversal of Microsoft's user interface strategy, one that differs from the traditional Bill Gates-driven style that emphasizes powerful commands. He said Microsoft has "gone soft" and "smothers" users with big colorful tiles while hiding needed features.
"One of the worst aspects of Windows 8 for power users is that the product's very name has become a misnomer. Windows no longer supports multiple windows on the screen," Nielsen wrote in a blog post. "Win 8 does have an option to temporarily show a second area in a small part of the screen, but none of our test users were able to make this work. Also, the main UI [user interface] restricts users to a single window, so the product ought to be renamed 'Microsoft Window.' "
Windows Still the Standard
Seven months later, Microsoft relented and announced Windows 8.1, formerly known as Windows Blue. Windows 8 users will get a free update of the software through the Windows Store, but no one knows exactly what the new update will include.
"Windows is still the standard, but it doesn't look like Windows 8 is going to have the same penetration as Windows XP and Windows 7 had," said Brad Shimmin, a principal analyst at Current Analysis. "It's still very much a Microsoft world in the enterprise, it's just an older Microsoft world. I think it proves pretty difficult for Microsoft to modernize its enterprise constituency for two reasons."
First, he said, Windows 8 is not a simple upgrade from an IT perspective. Training is required because it is not always immediately apparent sometimes how to switch between the classic UI and the Windows 8 UI. That, Shimmin told us, makes IT cringe.
The second, Shimmin said, was the lack of compatibility with Windows RT, which is the version optimized to run on lightweight tablets using ARM-based processors.
"Enterprises are looking for solutions that allow BYOD and a more mobile workforce that might be moving between their phone, tablet, desktop and laptop," he said.
"When Microsoft released its tablet-capable RT versions of Windows 8, it did so with a lot of caveats as to what you could run on them. That's not going to work well when the enterprises have such a huge investment and portfolio of software to run on these systems. It needs to be compatible from Day One."