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How Long Will Enterprises Wait on Windows 8? Forever...

October 26 is just over three months away as I write this blog, and that’s when Windows 8 will become available to the general public — and to enterprises, corporations, government arms and agencies, and other big buyers of desktop tools and technologies. The question is: Will enterprises jump on Windows 8 with any enthusiasm or alacrity?

As always when  a new Windows version hits, I have to submit that as far as big institutional users of any stripe are concerned the initial attitude will be “Wait and see.” In many instances, conventional wisdom has dictated that the wait be no less than the interval up to and something past the release of a first service pack for a new Windows OS (usually about a year or so in the making). If the first service pack is a real doozy, or serious problems surface in its wake, many will wait for the NEXT service pack to see if it fares any better. Thus, for example, Windows XP uptake in the business sector didn’t really get going until 2-3 years after it was released, and it’s just this year (almost three years after its release date in October, 2009) that Windows 7 finally resides on about half of all enterprise desktops. Needless to say, Windows Vista never came close to hitting such a mark!

That’s why my blog is entited “How Long Will Enterprises Wait on Windows 8?” where a true, but comical answer is “Until Windows 9 comes along.” In his recent blog on “Microsoft’s Windows 8 enterprise prospects…” Larry Dignan opines that “A Windows 7 to Windows 10 scenario six years from now isn’t out of the question.” Given a three-year development cycle for major Windows versions following Windows 7 and Windows 8 on that kind of schedule, and increasingly long lifecycles for corporate PCs thanks to a chronically dismal “slow growth” economic outlook, I can’t disagree with him, not even one little bit.

My best guess is that some small percentage of enterprises — probably less than 20% if Windows 7 patterns hold true — will adopt Windows 8 in the next 2-3 years (and I mean they’ll start deploying no sooner than two years from GA in October 2012). Perhaps another 10-15% might get on the bandwagon by the time Windows 9 comes along. But my gut feel is that Windows 8 is regarded as sufficiently controversial and in such real need of expensive new touch hardware that many enterprises will elect to wait and see long enough so that they can do likewise for Windows 9 when it comes along in another 39 months or so. Then, I’ll have a whole new calculus to consider: stay tuned, but please: don’t hold your breath!

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