Microsoft is taking a "big gamble" with its new Windows 8, one that will see the operating system peak at just 20% to 25% of corporate PCs, Gartner analysts said today.
"Microsoft is taking a big gamble over the next few months with Windows and Office, the two products responsible for most of its revenue and profit," the research firm said in a statement Tuesday. "[But] it is a risk that Microsoft must take to stay relevant in a world where mobile devices with new modern experiences are becoming the norm."
Windows 8 is set to launch at retail Oct. 26, one month from today.
The reasons cited by analysts Michael Silver and Steve Kleynhans will be familiar to followers of Windows 8's development: The two disparate user interfaces (UIs) of the OS, its tablet- and touch-first philosophy, its possible rejection by IT administrators as too much like Windows 7 on one hand, too different on the other.
But one factor, in particular, was stressed today by Kleynhans in an hour-long webinar held for current and potential clients: The overpowering presence in enterprises of Windows XP, an 11-year-old operating system and the need to get off that aged software as an April 2014 retirement deadline looms.
"The key message is that you really do need to get off Windows XP," said Kleynhans during the online seminar. "If you haven't done anything so far, you are really, really late. And Windows 8 is only complicating issues."
Complicating, as in confusing some companies about whether they should forget about the well-tested Windows 7, an operating system ready to head into its fourth year, and instead skip it for Windows 8 as they leave XP behind.
Kleynhans said that was wrong thinking.
"[Windows 8] is a big step for any Windows user," said Kleynhans [emphasis in original]. "But it's probably a bigger step than most XP users want to take."
Kleynhans argued that corporations should continue to transition from XP to Windows 7, a move that about 60% of businesses polled in May said they would wrap up by the end of 2013 rather than add Windows 8 to the mix.
The need to move off Windows XP is pressing: Microsoft will retire that OS in April 2014, after which is will not serve those users with security updates.
"Operating systems don't mature the day they're released. They take at least a year to mature," said Kleynhans of Windows 8's release next month. "It's not an option to skip Windows 7 and go to Windows 8 if you still have Windows XP in your environment."
There's simply not enough time remaining before April 2014 to properly test Windows 8, then prepare deployment plans, much less actually roll it out, he said.
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