Windows 8 adoption in enterprises hinges on UI acceptance, devices

Microsoft Windows 8 hasn't been as beloved out of the gate as Windows 7 was for a number of reasons, including the touch-centric user interface.

Microsoft customers haven't taken to Windows 8 as quickly as they did to Windows 7, and there are very specific reasons for the lack of immediate uptake.

Microsoft said more than 40 million Windows 8 licenses have been sold, but it has not provided details on how many of those are business licenses. Meanwhile, observers doubt Windows 8 adoption has been as robust as Microsoft claims.

In fact, anecdotal statements from IT professionals and data gleaned by analytics firms show slower uptake of the new system in its first two months on the market than its immediate predecessor, Windows 7.

In its first two months on the market, Windows 8 eked out a 1.72% share of desktop operating systems usage, according to Web analytics firm NetApplications. In comparison, three-year-old Windows 7 holds a 45.11% share, while Windows XP has 39.08%. Even the all-but-abandoned Windows Vista still has 5.67% share, by NetApplications' count.

"Unfortunately, it's true [that] there aren't many companies that are already migrating to Windows 8," said Michael Van Horenbeeck, technology consultant for Xylos, a systems integrator and Microsoft Certified Gold Partner in Belgium.

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The adoption rate for Microsoft's latest operating system has been slower than the rates for previous Windows versions at the same point in their release cycles is partly because Windows 8 is fundamentally different from Windows 7, Horenbeeck said. It requires a different approach, he added.

Another reason for Windows 8's lack of popularity to date is that while it works on non-touch hardware, Windows 8 is better suited for touchscreens than use with a mouse, users said. Concomitant with that is the new tile-based user interface.

"Windows 8 does not work well on non-touch PCs and laptops," said Tim Bajarin, principal analyst at Creative Strategies Inc. in Campbell, Calif. "The second thing from an IT standpoint is that the new OS is generally disruptive -- the leap to Windows 8 requires not only getting users used to the UI [user interface], but also through the learning curve."

Meanwhile, analytics firm StatCounter Global Stats reported that Windows 8 had a 1.31% share after one month on the market, compared with 4.93% for Windows 7 in its first month of commercial availability.

In addition, when Windows 7 arrived, there was a lot of pent-up demand among IT shops that had been waiting to do a hardware and software refresh following the Vista debacle. Much of that demand has been sated by new Windows 7 machines.

There is still the backlog of XP machines out there that will need to be replaced in the next year or two, but when and how that will evolve is still unpredictable.

Typically, enterprises continue to run old versions of Windows for as long as possible to delay upgrade costs and headaches. Those that do upgrade quickly often wait to upgrade to new operating systems so kinks can be worked out.

Windows 8 in 2013

As the operating system matures this year, interest may increase.

"I have not seen a lot of intent to migrate to Windows 8 so far, but most people are expecting to see it ramp up in the first quarter of 2013," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT Inc. in Hayward, Calif.

In fact, demand for the OS may increase significantly this year as the number of new devices that support Windows 8 increases, said Philip Moss, managing partner at U.K.-based IT solution provider NTTX.

"At the moment, a large number of my clients carry an iPad with some form of laptop or ultrabook," Moss said. "I can see that being reduced to just a Windows 8-based device."

Microsoft is expected to release more recent figures for Windows 8 licenses on January 24, when the company reports sales and earnings for the holiday quarter.

A Microsoft spokesperson declined to provide any updated numbers.

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