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Gartner: Windows 8 makes Microsoft relevant in mobile-dominated future

Veronica C. Silva | June 28, 2012
Windows 8 will be strategic for development though Win32 apps are expected to prevail for the next 10 years.

Windows 8 anyone? Why not? If we are to believe Gartner, the new Windows operating system is the new way to go in computing. But Gartner also advised that it is still too early to bid goodbye to Win32.

Market analyst Gartner said the new Windows 8 will be the start of the era for WinRT computing, or Window Runtime as opposed to the era of WinNT, referring to the Windows NT operating system. Gartner said the new OS will make Microsoft become relevant in the future - a future dominated by mobile devices.

Microsoft released last May the Windows 8 Release Preview and announced early this month the availability of the Windows 8 upgrade offer. Aside from a faster and more fluid user experience, Windows 8 promises a new user interface that Microsoft said responds well to touch as well as keyboard and mouse. The OS also features Microsoft apps, such as Bing Travel and Music Xbox apps that integrate with the Zune pass, and other apps.

The WinRT programming model coupled with a new user interface and support for legacy WinNT will allow users to run Win32 programs alongside new WinRT apps, said Gartner.

"Windows 8 is more than a major upgrade to Windows - it's a technology shift. We don't see technology shifts too often; the only other one Microsoft's client OS has gone through was the move from DOS technology to Windows NT technology, which began in 1993 and took eight years, ending with the introduction of Windows XP in 2001," said Steve Kleynhans, vice president for client and mobile computing, Gartner.

While the new OS is seen by Gartner as a strategic platform for new developments, Win32 apps will still be around for the next 10 years or so.

Win32 support

"Windows 8 is the start of Microsoft's effort to respond to market demands and competitors, as it provides a common interface and programming API set from phones to servers. It is also the beginning of the end of Win32 applications on the desktop," said Michael Silver, vice president and distinguished analyst, Gartner. "Microsoft will continue to support Win32, but it will encourage developers to write more manageable and engaging applications using WinRT."

While Silver expects legacy Windows applications to be irrelevant in the future Window client releases, it will still take years for enterprises to move their applications to the new Windows model. Gartner expects the Metro, the Windows touch-based user interface, as the model that "will lock organisations into the next generation of Windows." Still, it will take five years for Metro-style apps to be significant as an interface for enterprise apps.

"Organisations planning to develop new Win32 applications should switch to Metro for all new user-facing applications beginning in 2013 and should focus on external apps first and internal apps later," Gartner advises.

Gartner sees Win32 and Windows Desktop apps to be less strategic over time, and business users will begin to adopt Windows 8 through 2015. By 2020, Gartner expects less than 10 of enterprise end-users spending time on Win32 applications.


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