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A Tale of Two Windows: 7 and 8

Apparently, there’s been a worldwide conference for Microsoft partners in Toronto recently, because ZDNet Windows maven Mary Jo Foley reported on July 9, that “Windows 8 is on track to be released to manufacturing the first week of August, and to be generally available by late October 2012.” That means that all the planets should be in alignment some time just before Halloween (I’m guessing maybe Monday, October 29, or Tuesday, October 30) for the latest and greatest version of Windows to be on its way out to the world, in download, media, and pre-installed form on vendor PCs, notebooks, and tablets.

At the same Toronto event, MS Corporate VP of Windows Tami Reller (the same source for the GA date for Windows 8) also announced that Microsoft has now sold over 630 million Windows licenses so far (not clear if that ends with the end of June, or includes the first week of July). Windows 7 shipped October 22, 2009, so by my reckoning, 45 months have elapsed since then (not counting July, but counting October as a full month, so it’s a wash). That works out to exactly 14 million copies of Windows 7 for every month over that entire interval. That’s a pretty staggering number, when you stop to think about the magnitude of copies, dollars, and deployment effort this all means. In his story on these numbers, Paul Thurrott also reported that “The current Windows version [7] is installed on over half of all enterprise desktops, Microsoft says.”

What with Windows 8 getting ready to hit, and business users only halfway through Windows 7 migration (most from XP rather than the universally reviled Vista OS), methinks this argues very strongly for at least 3 years before Windows 8 starts making its way into enterprise operations in any numbers — if early user experience doesn’t nix the deal, and lead to a “second Vista” phenomenon. I’m going to be watching closely for news of corporate adoptions, and talking to OEMs about what they’re installing  on big corporate orders after the GA data comes and goes, and makes Windows 8 at least a possible contender for business use.

My best guess is that “wait and see” will be the order of the day for some time to come, and that even traditional pioneers such as various branches of the military, Expedia, Continental Airlines, and BMW (all of whom jumped all over Windows 7 within 6-12 months of GA in very big ways) may hang back a bit longer than usual to see what gives with Windows 8. At the same time, they can gauge the enthusiast and SOHO response to the new OS, and learn from the experiences reported by those other,  more tolerant network segments. But I’m guessing that for Windows 8, the uptake cycle will be more delayed than usual, in part because of Windows 7’s excellent stability and good overall reputation, and in part because of fear and loathing inspired by Windows 8’s touch-centric Metro GUI, a perceived higher-than-normal learning curve for users, and the unknowns always inherent in adopting a new but pervasive business platform.

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