Windows 8 lands on Friday, and with it the big question of whether the consumer-friendly operating system is as good a fit as previous versions of Windows, which were more stodgy and business-minded from an interface perspective.
Businesses May Not Want Windows 8
While there have been some opinionated folks decrying the merits of Windows 8 for business users, the greater sentiments of the business community towards the upcoming product remain largely unknown. Currently an estimated 41 percent of the world's 1.5 billion PCs run Windows XP. In other words, in the near term, many businesses are still working on their Windows XP to Windows 7 transition plan and have little thoughts on Windows 8 adoption.
Analysts are still busily debating the merits of the upcoming Microsoft OS product, whose early adoption rates are trailing those of Windows 7.
Analyst Michael Cherry told Reuters in a recent briefing, "Some organizations, when they look at Windows 8 Intel tablets, they are going to like them because they are manageable. When they look at RT they are going to be disappointed, because it's no easier to manage than an iPad."
In other words, x86 tablets -- like those bearing Intel chips -- may bear an advantage for businesses over current tablets, but Windows RT tablets (built with ARM chips) will likely not.
Gartner analyst Michael Silver says he expects Windows 8 to never catch on to the extent of Windows XP or Windows 7, even years down the road. He comments, "We believe 90 percent of large organizations will not deploy Windows 8 broadly, and at its peak, we expect about 20 percent of PCs in large organizations will run Windows 8."
Doug Johnson, head of risk management policy at the American Bankers Association, similarly argues to Reuters, "Windows 8 is, frankly, more of a consumer platform than it is a business platform, so it's not something that makes any sense from a business perspective at this juncture. There is really no additional business functionality that Windows 8 gives you that I see."
Does it Matter?
Increasingly Microsoft's revenue stream is driven by licensing software (such as Office and SQL Server 2008), rather than licensing operating systems. Last year OS sales only accounted for 25 percent of Microsoft's bottom line versus 30 percent five years ago.
And a large portion of OS revenue -- roughly 40 percent -- comes from bulk licensing agreements with free upgrade provisions. For that type of licenses, IT departments' decision to adopt or pass on a particular version of Windows makes no difference, as long as the business is using some version of the OS.
In other words, as murky as Windows 8's business fate may be, the impact of those long-term sales on Microsoft's bottom line is even more unclear. That said, the general air of skepticism from business users is a concern for Microsoft in the long term, and definitely something Microsoft will (or, at least, should) take into acount when crafting Windows 8's successor.