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The Enterprise Path to Win8 Adoption

Over at Forbes, David K. Johnson has just released a very interesting article entitled “Seven Reasons Windows 8 Adoption in the Enterprise Is at Risk.” The story poses some potentially noteworthy observations to suggest that, for at least the next year, widespread Windows 8 adoptions in the enterprise are unlikely at best:

It's likely to take a while before enterprise users sit themselves down in front of a Win8 PC or tablet.

It’s likely to take a while before enterprise users sit themselves down in front of a Win8 PC or tablet.

1. Most IT shops are still in the midst of their Windows XP to 7 migration: True enough, and with a 3 to 5 year life cycle for most desktops, enterprises will want to work their way through that cycle before starting another one.
2. Windows 8 makes strides in security and manageability, but Windows 7 is good enough for most: True again, with UEFI and secure boot, an improved BitLocker, and even Dynamic Access control as tempting inducements to move to Windows 8, none of these makes a killer argument that waiting is a mistake. At present, perceived value of the upgrade comes nowhere close to matching time and effort involved in making wholesale desktop migration work.
3. The New Windows interface is a major change that carries added support risk for I&O. Certainly, the new UI paradigm has been the focus of so much ranting and raving that there’s no need to question or belabor this point.
4. Confusion between Windows RT and Windows 8. With the ARM-only RT out there alongside the x86 full-blown Windows 8 version, RT poses a potential trap for buyers, especially those who — like most enterprise workers — expect access to a desktop for legacy and conventional applications in addition to Windows Store apps. This could blow up for those not careful enough to distinguish Windows RT from Windows 8.
5. Limited availability of apps in the Windows App Store. Johnson cites the numbers game that so many analysts have discussed: an almost 30-to-1 ratio for Apple Store vs. Microsoft Store apps (only 4K for RT, in fact) with over 700K apps for Android (70-to-1 vis-a-vis the MS Store). Until MS achieves critical mass — on which point Johnson cites Frank Gillett to observe this could take a year or longer — there isn’t enough “stuff” available for the Windows Store UI to spur adoption and deployment.
6. Comparatively high Windows 8 resource requirements for tablets. The cost and features requirements for Windows 8 tablets that can run full-blown applications comes at a serious cost, weight, and resource disadvantage as compared to iOS or Android alternatives. A medium-range iPad is available for just over $600, and Android tablets run from $400 to 800; a reasonable x86-based Surface tablet is hard to buy for under $1,000, and it’s easy to spend $1,300 to $1,500 for a fully tricked-out model.
7. Fragmented OEM hardware ecosystem. Too many choices, where many OEMs also pander to consumer desires to get “just good enough” capability at the lowest possible price. Without strong enterprise demand, there’s no inducement for OEMs to start building truly “business-class” tablets and convertibles with an emphasis on reliability and durability. This will probably change over time, but Davidson is right to opine that it’s much likely to happen later,  rather than sooner.

All in all, I think Johnson does an excellent job of summing up the key arguments. Certainly what’s scariest for lots of enterprises is the paradigm shift in the UI, and the attendant learning curve for users (and support staff) that has to be climbed to make investments in the new OS worthwhile. But with most enterprises lagging 18-36 months behind public release to complete wholesale migration, I think the only potential error in his story is the one year timeframe he imposes on himself. I think he’s right, and likely to stay that way for some time longer than that — another six to 24 months, if the typical time-table for enterprise adoptions for the last four or five major Windows versions (NT, 2000, XP, and Windows 7 — add in Vista if you like, but it never got much traction)  also holds true for Windows 8. So far, I see no reasons why it shouldn’t.

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