Windows 8: Think You Can Skip It? Think Again.

My colleague Benjamin Gray and I have been looking closely at Windows 8 for the past several months to make sure we have a clear understanding of what it means for I&O organizations, leaders, and professionals. We have been briefed in depth by Microsoft executives, program managers, and engineers. We have downloaded, installed, and used the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, and we have had hundreds of conversations with I&O professionals in the past year on Windows 7 (and now Windows 8) adoption — from those looking for guidance, as well as those with strong opinions already formed. As you might expect, we have formed some opinions of our own.

For those who haven't talked with Ben Gray, he is a fantastic authority on Windows adoption trends with complete mastery of the data. He has closely watched Windows Vista, Windows 7, and now Windows 8 go through the cycles of preparation, migration, adoption, and operation. Ben was the first at Forrester to point out that Windows 8 is an "off-cycle release," coming too soon on the heels of Windows 7 for companies to be ready to adopt it. He and I authored a document on Windows adoption trends for 2012, which will be published shortly and provides additional data and context. Ben has also dissected the Forrsights Workforce Employee survey data in dozens of ways, and he delivers a fantastic presentation for Forrester customers on what he's learned.

For my part, I look at Windows 8 from a migration and operations perspective, and I have been directly involved with Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7 migrations for many firms over the past 15 years. There has been plenty of press suggesting that Windows 8 will be the next Vista, but there are many reasons why I don't think that will be the case. When I look at Windows 8, I see a very different situation than any previous Windows release.

Vista was not adopted by most organizations in part because it didn't add enough new value or cure pain that end users cared about. XP was a strong release way back in 2001 that solved both IT operational pain and pain for end users while delivering better reliability and new features that they valued. Looking at Forrsights data, which shows that Windows 7 will be installed on 83% of new corporate PCs deployed by the end of 2012, and with the added understanding that most firms have spent up to 11 years on Windows XP, we conclude that Windows 8 is at risk of being skipped by IT organizations, already strained by the costly and recent upgrade to Windows 7. Except . . . 

. . . we don't think Windows 8 will be skipped by workers. Why? It's an enabler for those who want to use multiple devices, such as a tablet, smartphone, and a PC, and we believe that the workers who value tight integration between their devices are highly influential people in many organizations, which means Windows 8 stands a good chance of being driven by IT consumers more than Vista was. In an earlier blog, I introduced Jamie — a HERO with the power to force change. We believe this same persona will be attracted to the new Windows 8 Metro UI, and the potential for tighter integration between their devices. If this proves true when Windows 8 is released, I&O organizations can expect a heavy demand to support it from workers. HEROs have been the spark plugs of workforce computing change since the IBM PC. If they decide they like Windows 8, you do not want to be caught unprepared.

What should you do now to prepare? Whatever you do, do not delay Windows 7 migration plans. When we look at the technical underpinnings of Windows 8, it has much in common with Windows 7, which we believe will mean much better application compatibility between Windows 7 and Windows 8 than there is between XP and Windows 7. That means that firms should find it less costly and easier to support mixed Windows 7 and 8 environments, with the notable exception of apps that fully leverage Metro. More on this topic when we understand how quickly the application development community picks up Metro in their product releases. For now, firms should be putting the hammer down on (accelerating) Windows XP to 7 migration plans as top priority.

Second, it's time to secure commitment from your software vendors — especially client management, security, and critical productivity tools — for Windows 8 support. Document the commitments and make sure they are represented in contract renewals with all key hardware and software vendors through 2012.

Third, get educated on Windows 8 now. You will need to understand migration, deployment, app compatibility, and all of the technical changes you can absorb. Most of all, get educated on what it will offer your HEROs and choose a few things that you can offer them right away when the demand hits. Know how to configure Outlook and deploy email profiles to Windows tablets and smartphones. Develop a client virtualization strategy with help from Ben Gray or me that will allow you to support consumerized Windows 8 devices with minimal impact to your existing environment, just to name two.


Do not agree in the slightest

It seems like every research firm is just hedging their bets with Windows 8. Microsoft t itself admitted that the focus of Windows 8 adoption will be on the consumer segment. And that they hope enterprise adoption will pick up based on that. This isn't going to happen for the following reasons:

Thanks Sameer - but tablets don't replace PCs


I hear you, but your logic has a fundamental flaw- specifically that traditional PC form factors (including Macs) are in their "twilight years" as you put it in your blog. We agree on the point that IT will not adopt Windows 8 willingly so soon after their investments to move from XP to 7. However the data show that tablets are not replacing traditional form factors, but rather are being added to the computer bag as an additional (primarily consumption) device for most.

In other words- the rumors of the PC's demise have been greatly exaggerated in the press. There is no "post-PC" era emerging for enterprises as yet. For now, there is simply more diversity of hardware and operating systems in the portfolio. Company workforce computing hardware budgets for 2012 continue to reflect the role of traditional form factors in the workforce. As such, I stand by my assertion that Windows 8 will see stronger demand from IT consumerizers than some journalists seem to be predicting.

I&O professionals should absolutely "hedge their bets" by being ready. There is nothing to lose in preparing, but much to lose by being caught unprepared.


more forrester fud

Windows 8 is not the new vista, it's worse than that. Vista failed on the PC platform, Windows 8 is going to fail on the tablet, phone, PC and server (as 2012) platforms. I've used it on all and it is way of the mark of what businesses want or need. I have thousands of people who are good at their jobs but are not expected to be Windows experts. They do not need a major 'paradigm shift' to add to their daily woes. On the tablet it is horrible compared to iOS or Android and the same on the phone. The server version misses the point about what's most important on that platform. MS people I've talked to about this have mocked me for being resistant to change, but then try to sell Windows 8 on it's tiles, tiles!?!. Tiles are not a selling point for businesses. Like all versions of Windows, adoption is artifically fudged by forcing it on customers buying new machines. Businesses are still reimaging machines with XP and the same will happen with this version. Retail customers aren't so lucky.

Welcome to the new Millennium, Simon.

Respectfully disagree on the server side. In my opinion, along with those of other analysts here, 2012 is strong. Microsoft took direct aim at VMware as well.

On Windows 8 and the new UX, it's a little bit more nuanced than your comments would suggest. Tiles are not a selling point to the IT organization, but the IT organization isn't a reliable proxy for what the humans you serve will choose, given the option. I like the tiles, but now that I've played with Windows 8 on tablets for several months, Windows 8 is too heavy to be a tablet OS. Hence, RT holds promise but the jury is still out on it. It's lightweight enough but the apps aren't there yet.