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IT unimpressed by Windows 8.1 as Microsoft readies Windows 9

Microsoft will reportedly lay out its vision for Windows 9, but is IT ready for yet another operating system when Windows 8.1 has yet to make a dent?

Microsoft is expected to show off a roadmap for its Windows 9 client operating system this spring, but it's unlikely to excite most IT shops, given their lackluster embrace of Microsoft's currently shipping OS, Windows 8.1.

Enterprises continue to adopt Windows 8.1 at a turtle's pace, since many IT shops have only recently migrated to Windows 7. Some even remain on Windows XP. Others have simply tested Windows 8.1 but have not committed to this release.

Windows 8 and 8.1, now 15 months from the latter's launch, have reached just 10.5%, according to NetMarketShare's desktop OS market share report of December 2013. Windows 7 still commands a lion's share, with 47.5% of the market. Windows XP still has nearly 29% market share. Windows Vista owns 3.6%, and Mac OS X, Linux and others round out the total with a combined 9.4%.

Organizations are hesitating to upgrade to Windows 8.1 for many reasons, some of which include costly licensing, application incompatibility, rejection of the revamped user interface and the need to wait for a hardware refresh.

"Windows 7 is good for most enterprises," said Bob O'Donnell, chief analyst at TECHnalysis Research LLC in Foster City, Calif.

Microsoft must show enterprises a significantly easier path to make the transition to Windows 8.1, he said. O'Donnell noted that the lack of a true touch-based Office suite also represents another challenge for enterprises considering an upgrade to Windows 8.1.

With a potential Windows 9 roadmap expected at the Microsoft's Build conference in April, IT administrators have expressed hope that a new version of the OS might bring back the Start button and menu. Current iterations of Windows 8.1 have something of a pseudo offering of the iconic Start button and menu feature.

"That one feature may make people take a second look at Windows 8," said Ric Getter, a programmer and analyst at Portland Community College. The Portland, Ore.-based college is 95% Windows-based, but like many organizations, it has yet to standardize on Windows 8. Microsoft's shift to the new user interface will cost companies a lot of money for retraining, he added.

Some organizations have adopted Windows 8.1 on the desktop and in mobile devices to use for new applications. For example, companies such as Starwood Hotels & Resorts' Sheraton Hotels have added Windows 8 kiosks and tablets to give guests a better customer experience. These companies look toward business development and IT to provide innovative offerings that give end users an improved experience using touch-based devices.

Windows Phone 8.1 on the horizon

While Windows 9 will reportedly come in 2015, updates to Windows Phone 8.1 are expected in April. Microsoft announced an enterprise service pack for Windows Phone last fall. Windows Phone only captured 3.6% market share for the third quarter of 2013, according to IDC in Framingham, Mass.

By comparison, Android led with 81% share, and iOS came in at 12.9%. BlackBerry was down to 1.7% market share, while others made up 0.6% of the market.

Microsoft has tried to push Windows Phone in the enterprise, but it initially focused on consumers, said Brian Katz, head of mobile innovation at a large pharmaceutical organization. Katz said he looks forward to more enterprise-ready features in Windows Phone, such as virtual private network and full encryption capabilities.

Microsoft declined to comment on this story.

Next Steps

Examining Windows 9 Start menu and other features

Securing Windows 9.x Workstation

Managing Windows 8.1 deployment hiccups

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Microsoft just isn't listening. We will not blindly follow them into a radical change of the desktop. It defies every rule of true usability.
Windows 8 was supposed to start up quick. Windows 8.1 starts up slow.

Because there's no Start Menu, Windows 8 is pretty much based around Search. But Windows 8.1 can't find a file I closed 10 seconds ago, nor the app I used 2 minutes ago. It can, though, present me with 1460 things from the internet which I wasn't looking for.

Even when it can produce a list of files, it doesn't show me the most recently-accessed ones first, like Windows 8 did. It doesn't give me any option to seach alpabetically or by date, or by source (C: drive, Skydrive, Internet). The files I want is number 948 in the results.

Windows 8 built on libraries. In 8.1 libraries are badly spaced (i.e. not at all spaced) and are below "This PC", so are off the page.

"This PC" is not "This PC" at all. Most of it is "This particular User-ID". Only some of it is "This PC".

It was clear that "My Documents" belonged to "This User-ID". Documents could belong to anything. If it was going to be renamed, "User-ID's Documents" would have been the most sensible thing to do.

Various features in 8.1 are only available in the Metro Interface, designed for touchscreen. My computer doesn't have a touchscreen.

So now I need to use 2 different interfaces, one of which I don't want and some of whose apps don't even have a close button or forward and back buttons for navigation - because they're designed for swiping. But I can't do that on this computer. I have no way of getting to page 2 or to close the app (OK, that's no quite true, but for practical purposes it is).

We've been here before - the command line not being updated to keep pace with new features in Windows. So much so that repetitive admin tasks became so impossible and they had to invent Powershell - which itself it incredibly non-intuitive and cumbersome.

Windows 8.1 deleted my local admin account into the bargain. And it can't revert to my previous (Win 8) restore point, either. Terrible.

So having upset many of its current customers, Microsoft's next plan is to ditch 1/3 of its (old, but happy), customers, when it stops supporting Windows XP in April.

Truly awful.
In Windows 8.1, if I search for a file, e.g. "book-m"

(a) Windows attempts to guess and gives ludicrous suggestions.

(b) Its doesn't seem to remember what I've searched for before and guess that.

(c) Under "Everywhere" it finds just 2 files.

(d) But if I click "Files" (instead of Everywhere), it finds 22.

How is that possible? How can it be so useless?
When I do a Search in the modern interface, I do have to go through my list of file names but my list is shorter than yours. When I'm in the desktop mode, I tend to select where I know my files have been stored -- either in SkyDrive or locally.

Just curious, did you upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 or were you using Windows 7 before?
It is fast streamlined simplified design one click access combined search address bar integration with 7 Download Manager keeps a running list of the files you download from the Internet, notifies you if a file could be malicious, and allows you to pause and restart a download
I agree with Bill Simms and FTClark. Microsoft does not listen to its customers.
Apart from the fact that MS could have provided a choice of interfaces for Win 8, such as
make it work "like Win XP", or "like Win 7" and even the odd "like Win 8.1", one of the main issues of upgrading to a new OS is "AT BEST, a VERY IFFY PROPOSITION". It ought to be possible to transfer programs and data from one OS to another, and to automate that process. This issue prevents people from even trying. Microsoft does not seem to care about compatibility, and MS is simply not working hard enough to ever make that happen. MS wanted to make it as complicated as possible to move a program from one computer to another, and as a result it's become so difficult that MS is stepping on its own feet and can't see because of its own shadow.
And that "Laplink" deal MS came up with only transfers DATA, not programs. How do you see or work with your data without the program needed to access them?
Windows 8.1 Upgrade Assistant will tell you if your PC can run Windows 8.1, and then provides a compatibility report and optional steps for you to buy, download, and install Windows. If you want to check out the system requirements, you can you don't have to buy the upgrade to run or use it