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IT plays waiting game with Windows 8 application support

Windows 8 sales sputter as businesses wait for third-party software to be certified on Microsoft's new operating system.

Interest in Windows 8 adoption among IT pros remains stagnant and may not materialize anytime soon.

Many organizations have already made the transition to Windows 7, which came out in 2009, and may not be willing to move again until future releases -- Windows 9 or possibly later. One reason: They don't know how long it will take for third-party application providers to ensure their code runs seamlessly on Windows 8.

"We will most likely use legacy rights to downgrade to Windows 7 until such time as our [application] vendors have extensive support for Windows 8," said Tim Robinson, network administrator for Waltonen Engineering Inc., a mechanical engineering and manufacturing firm in Warren, Mich.

XP vs. Windows 8 application support

Another factor is the large market share that the 11-year-old Windows XP operating system still boasts. XP powers 41% of all desktop PCs -- slightly behind Windows 7, which has 45%, according to Web analytics firm NetApplications. Also, Microsoft's support for XP doesn't expire until April 2014.

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Windows 8, meanwhile, has picked up just 1% share of the desktop OS market since it debuted in late October, finishing behind Windows Vista, which still holds a 6% share.

Some organizations still run XP, at least in certain departments, because of its broad support for legacy applications. Con. J. Franke Electric Inc., an XP shop in Stockton, Calif., is considering Windows 8 adoption, but is waiting until application support improves, IT admin Scott Frazier said.

"Ideally by that time, or shortly thereafter, all of our software will be supported on Windows 8,” he said. “If not, then I'll be taking us to Windows 8 -- kicking and screaming -- as change comes hard to some users, myself included."

Low Windows 8 sales, interest

Enterprise IT is notoriously slow when it comes to upgrading desktop OSes, and usually waits until the first service pack, but Windows 8 still lags behind its predecessors. IT pros are only half as interested in Windows 8 as they were in Windows 7 during the comparable post-release time period, according to a mid-November report by analyst firm Forrester Research Inc.

Some IT pros are also concerned about Windows 8 vulnerabilities to common malware families and other attacks. And some industry observers pointed to the departure of Microsoft's Windows Division President Steven Sinofsky as a sign that early Windows 8 sales have not matched internal projections.

Still, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has publicly called Windows 8 sales fantastic, and said the company sold 4 million upgrades in the first few days of availability. And a former mid-level Microsoft manager, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said it's too early to surmise that Windows 8 is in trouble.

"Windows 8 is a long-term strategy, and it will take over a year [to catch on]," the former manager said.

Dig Deeper on Windows 8 and 8.1

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What's your business' primary desktop OS?
We are an ISV. Most of our users will be fine on Windows 7 for some time. Those of us involved in developing products for Microsoft platforms run the latest and greatest, including Windows 8 and Office 2013. I upgraded from Windows 7 on my Dell E6400 and most everything works pretty well.
Actually it's Vista SP2 and Server 2008 SP2 (not R2) but that wasn't an option. We see no real difference in Vista SP2 and 7.
One of the many considerations yes is application compatibility bit also what is the business case for going to "this" OS in the first place.
Microsoft marketing is flawed. Our CEO saw the "kiddie" commercials over the holiday and said, "Windows 8 isn't a serious desktop contender in the Fortune 500 marketplace. No consideration for deployment until late next year, if it survives." He thinks it's a toy OS due to the commercials.
My Clients are all in the 45%. We have all ditched the dependance on XP and are unsing Windows 7 and what it provides. The response from them has indicated they feel it has been worth the jump.
The only problem (and this is compounded by Windows 8's release) is that many Software Vendors have failed to get their software to Windows 7 Compatible or Compliant status, and as frustring as it is, I cant see them making the effort with Windows 8.
I have been using Win 8 for a while now as an IT contractor, and it still strikes me as being consumer focused. Just ike the iPad, ist handy in the workplace. but is taking 3rd party vendors like VMware to really make it an office worhorse.
PS - I attend Microsoft Function and know that their math when it comes to statistics is far from accurate eg. 400 attendees asked "hands up who is using x" - less than 10 raised their hand - and the MS speaker said "Good 35% at least". Sorry MS.
Still pushing at the 7 upgrade, which will take another few months here. Zero plans to go to 8. Will probably look at 9 when it's released.