CHICAGO -- By the time Microsoft's Windows 7 support expires in 2020, the face of computing may have changed so much that the large-scale Windows desktop migration may be a thing of the past.
Windows 7 is going to be the last time we roll out a mainstream desktop OS.
lead technical consultant, Atlantis Consulting Inc.
Tablet PCs, smartphones and overall changes in work habits have reduced end users' reliance on desktops and laptops, and some organizations have been able to significantly lengthen their PC refresh cycles.
"We can get away with not doing another desktop rollout for the next eight years," said Jim Moyle, lead technical consultant for Atlantis Computing Inc., a London-based desktop virtualization software and solutions provider, during BriForum 2012 here this week.
Most organizations are just now upgrading to Windows 7 and won't rush to upgrade to Windows 8, especially given the questions around its touchscreen support and Metro interface. Plus, Microsoft will support Windows 7 until at least 2020.
"Among the most of us, Windows 7 is going to be the last time we roll out a mainstream desktop OS," Moyle added.
Microsoft released Windows 7 in 2009, but as of November 2011, just 38% of organizations had upgraded, according to TechTarget's 2012 Windows Purchasing Intentions Survey. Of those that hadn't upgraded, 45% were in the process of doing so, but nearly 36% planned to wait at least six months.
Among all desktop operating systems in use among consumers and businesses, Windows XP still has a slight lead over Windows 7, 43.6% to 41.6%, according to NetMarketShare, which tracks OSes among Internet users. Windows XP debuted in 2001, and support doesn't end until 2014.
Say goodbye to PC refreshes, too?
Though mobile devices serve as convenient supplements to PC and laptop use, it's not a good strategy to view smartphones and tablets as replacements for PCs, said Brian Katz, director of mobile engineering at pharmaceutical company Sanofi, based in Bridgewater, N.J.
But, the use of these devices means PCs aren't relied on as much, so the hardware may last longer than ever. Katz said he knows of four major enterprises that have lengthened their PC-refresh cycles from two or three years to four or five years for that very reason.
"That's building your strategy correctly," he said.