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Windows 7, iOS, BYOD redefine enterprise OS landscape

Shane O'Neill | April 26, 2013
Led by Windows 7, Microsoft's operating systems still control the enterprise, but the software giant's days of dominance are waning. As a recent Forrester report highlights, mobile devices and BYOD have made the state of enterprise operating systems far more complex.

When exactly did the enterprise stop being a place that ran only Windows? It was probably in the second half of 2010 when employees started asking IT to install their work email on their new iPads.

In short order, a rapid march toward a BYOD model began. In such BYOD scenarios (which as often reports are more complex than they seem), IT must manage a variety of smartphones, tablets, mobile apps and operating systems (namely Apple iOS and Google's Android).

IT departments must also keep managing PC-based Windows 7, Windows XP and, to a smaller extent, Windows Vista and Mac OS. While Windows 8 remains missing in action in the enterprise, Windows 7 adoption has surpassed XP use, which is good timing given that Microsoft will end XP support in April of 2014.

Despite the complexity, the enterprise OS landscape has not quite descended into chaos. But it does grow more fragmented each day due to bring-your-own behavior, posing a major threat to Windows dominance, according to a new report from Forrester Research entitled "Navigating Diversity in Operating Systems and Browsers."

"The consumer electronics market helped ignite this newfound OS diversity, as users spend more and more of their computing time using smartphones, tablets and other non-PC devices," writes report author and Forrester analyst J.P. Gownder.

"Measured as a single computing market, Microsoft Windows' share of all personal devices has shrunk from 67 percent in 2008 to 30 percent in 2012."

Forrester used two surveys to determine the current state of OSes in the enterprise. First, it analyzed more than 3.9 million visitors to between May 1, 2012 and January 31, 2013. Second, Forrester's Forrsights surveyed IT decision-makers and information workers, asking "What operating systems do your firm's company-issued PCs run?"

Here are some of Forrester's key data points on the evolving enterprise OS landscape.

Windows 7 Is the New Standard

Windows 7, not surprisingly, has become the enterprise standard since its release in late 2009. Nevertheless, it has not reached the adoption levels and popularity that Windows XP enjoyed at its peak in 2007 when it was installed on more than 80 percent of enterprise desktops, according to Forrester.

With mobile OSes charging the gates, Windows 7 faces a more complex and competitive enterprise environment than XP ever did. In addition, "Windows XP took five years to reach its peak, while Windows 7 has only been present in the market for three-and-a-half years," writes Forrester analyst Gownder.

According to one of the Forrester surveys cited in the report, 47.5 percent of 1,272 North American and European IT hardware decision-makers run Windows 7 on company-issued PCs, while 38.2 percent run Windows XP, 3.5 percent run Vista and 7.2 percent run Mac OS. Windows 8 is not mentioned in the survey results.


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