Windows 8 – a necessary gamble: Gartner

Mobility has left Microsoft behind, Windows 8 a gamble that must happen to regain traction

Microsoft’s long awaited and often criticised Windows 8 operating system is a significant gamble, although a risk the company must take to remain ‘relevant’ in the mobility era, according to research firm, Gartner.

As consumer and worker behaviour has shifted from a centralised PC platform (the notebook or desktop) to an array of mobile devices where the PC is just one peer, Microsoft has lost traction in an evolved market, Gartner vice-president and analyst, Michael Silver, said.

Windows 8 is an attempt to address this issue through collaboration capabilities that cater for the spread of mobile devices.

“Microsoft’s approach is very different from Apple’s and Google’s, where phones and tablets have much more commonality than PCs and tablets,” Silver said. “This plays to Microsoft’s strength in PCs, leveraging it not only to enter the tablet market, but also to improve its share of the smartphone market.”

As such, Windows 8 will launch Microsoft’s RT era, which follows the NT era that began in 1993 and is only now starting to fade out, according to Gartner research vice-president, Steve Kleynhans, who believes that the “technology underlying Windows 8 will last a long, long time.”

At the same time, making radical changes to Windows poses a risk for Microsoft as organisations like to reduce technology risks by deploying mature, stable, well-supported products.

“Windows 8 has been released to manufacturing and will be formally launched in October, but the reality is that most organisations are still working on eliminating Windows XP and deploying Windows 7,” Silver said.

The fear is therefore whether Windows 8 will face the same fate as Vista, which Gartner said never gained significant success in corporate environments, and by extension, resulted in the cease of third party support.

Additional concern comes in the form of ‘metro-style’ user interface. While relevant for tablets, smartphone, and hybrids, the appropriateness of the approach on desktop and notebook machines is questionable.

Gartner said that if the operating system finds success on tablets, it will have many impacts on organisations despite the fact that some will want to remain on other platforms.

“As users gain more power, due to consumerisation, IT is less able to mandate that certain products be used or not used in their environment,” the firm said in a statement. “This makes it harder for IT to buy and support PCs the way they have for the past 20 years and may lead to more bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs. Organisations also need to device whether they want to create applications expressly for Windows 8 and Metro, write iOS applications, or something more neutral.”

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