IT plays waiting game with Windows 8 application support

Windows 8 sales sputter as businesses wait for third-party software to be certified on Microsoft's new operating system.

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Interest in Windows 8 adoption among IT pros remains stagnant and may not materialize anytime soon.

Many organizations have already made the transition to Windows 7, which came out in 2009, and may not be willing to move again until future releases -- Windows 9 or possibly later. One reason: They don't know how long it will take for third-party application providers to ensure their code runs seamlessly on Windows 8.

"We will most likely use legacy rights to downgrade to Windows 7 until such time as our [application] vendors have extensive support for Windows 8," said Tim Robinson, network administrator for Waltonen Engineering Inc., a mechanical engineering and manufacturing firm in Warren, Mich.

XP vs. Windows 8 application support

Another factor is the large market share that the 11-year-old Windows XP operating system still boasts. XP powers 41% of all desktop PCs -- slightly behind Windows 7, which has 45%, according to Web analytics firm NetApplications. Also, Microsoft's support for XP doesn't expire until April 2014.

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Windows 8, meanwhile, has picked up just 1% share of the desktop OS market since it debuted in late October, finishing behind Windows Vista, which still holds a 6% share.

Some organizations still run XP, at least in certain departments, because of its broad support for legacy applications. Con. J. Franke Electric Inc., an XP shop in Stockton, Calif., is considering Windows 8 adoption, but is waiting until application support improves, IT admin Scott Frazier said.

"Ideally by that time, or shortly thereafter, all of our software will be supported on Windows 8,” he said. “If not, then I'll be taking us to Windows 8 -- kicking and screaming -- as change comes hard to some users, myself included."

Low Windows 8 sales, interest

Enterprise IT is notoriously slow when it comes to upgrading desktop OSes, and usually waits until the first service pack, but Windows 8 still lags behind its predecessors. IT pros are only half as interested in Windows 8 as they were in Windows 7 during the comparable post-release time period, according to a mid-November report by analyst firm Forrester Research Inc.

Some IT pros are also concerned about Windows 8 vulnerabilities to common malware families and other attacks. And some industry observers pointed to the departure of Microsoft's Windows Division President Steven Sinofsky as a sign that early Windows 8 sales have not matched internal projections.

Still, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has publicly called Windows 8 sales fantastic, and said the company sold 4 million upgrades in the first few days of availability. And a former mid-level Microsoft manager, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said it's too early to surmise that Windows 8 is in trouble.

"Windows 8 is a long-term strategy, and it will take over a year [to catch on]," the former manager said.

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