Gartner predicts slow uptake in Windows 8 enterprise use

OS cannot compete with Apple, Google on "coolness" factor

Orlando, Fla.-- After years in development, the Windows 8 operating system (OS) finally hit the market last week. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) is hoping the OS will shore up its position in the enterprises, which has been eroded by inroads from BYOD devices such as Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone and iPad and Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android phone.

Gartner, for one, is throwing some cold water on Microsoft's hopes. Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president and global head of research at Gartner, predicted 90 percent of enterprises would bypass broad deployment of Windows 8 through at least 2014.

"However good the prospects look for Windows 8 in the consumer market or for tablets, there are no compelling business imperatives to drive legacy devices in business towards Windows 8," Sondergaard told an audience at the Gartner Symposium ITxpo.

During a debate over Windows 8's future, Gartner Research Vice President Steve Kleynhans argued that Windows 8 would succeed both as a PC and tablet OS. Kleynhans anticipated new "cool" PC devices coming out for the enterprise that will attract the BYOD crowd, as well as plenty of Windows applications and support.

As an OS on tablets, Windows 8 will come with a broad ecosystem of tablet hardware, as well as support for enterprise apps, the analyst observed.

Windows 8 provides a new user experience, new applications environment and new app store for PCs and tablets, Kleynhans argued. IT balances the need for "cool" devices and applications with conservative enterprise requirements, he added. "Success will be uneven, and will take time, but it will come," he concluded.

Gartner Vice President and Research Director Michael Silver was not buying any of that Windows 8 optimism. Users will be reluctant to learn a whole new user interface, he said, and called the interaction between the Windows desktop apps and the Metro apps developed for the Windows Phone "jarring and confusing."

"The bulk of the PC market is composed of desktops and traditional notebooks, which will get little value from Metro. Developers' enthusiasm for Metro will fail to keep up with iOS, and the apps people want and expect will not be available," Silver opined.

Silver disagreed with Kleynhans about the coolness factor. He predicted Windows 8 devices will not be able to compete with Apple on coolness or price. "A notebook that tries to be a tablet will not be great at either," he concluded.

Gartner Vice President and Distinguished Analyst Nick Jones, who moderated the debate, presented Gartner's official position on Windows 8. Jones said enterprises would not upgrade their existing PCs to Windows 8, while many mid-sized and large organizations would in fact downgrade new PCs from Windows 8 to Windows 7 over the next 12 to 18 months.

In the tablet market, Windows 8 will lag behind iOS and Android, although it should fare better in the enterprise than the consumer market, Jones predicted.

The debate continues. Windows has had its share of OS successes--Windows 95 and Windows 7--and its share of failures--Windows ME and Vista. Ironically, Windows 7's success might torpedo Windows 8 in the enterprise market, at least in the short to medium term.

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