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Ballmer's lightened pay packet is the least of his problems

What's that smell around Windows 8?

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Open ... and Shut Citing "slower than planned progress" at Microsoft's online services division and a 3 per cent decline in Windows revenue, Microsoft's board cut chief executive Steve Ballmer's pay to 91 per cent of his plan, or $1.3m. But that's the least of his concerns.

Microsoft is about to embark on the biggest shift in its Windows franchise in decades, but early jobs data suggest that companies aren't in a hurry to embrace the Windows 8 newcomer. In fact, if anything they seem to be doubling down on Windows 7.

Is this another Windows Vista debacle in the making?

Probably not, but the signs aren't comforting. For one thing, some IT professionals are dragging their feet on tackling the learning curve associated with Windows 8 user interface changes. For such pros, an upgrade to Windows 7, not Windows 8, is the order of the day.

This might be why the jobs data for Windows 8 look pretty grim, precisely because they look so good for Windows 7.

Given that Forrester reports that Windows 7 will be preinstalled on 83 per cent of all PCs shipped in 2012, it's not surprising that Windows 7 has so many job listings.

But given the emphasis Microsoft has placed on Windows 8, copious demand for the new operating system should be showing up in Windows 8 jobs data. But it's not.

Of the hottest job skills tracked by Dice.com, a jobs site for technology professionals, Windows 7 makes the list with 1,161 job postings (out of over 84,000). Windows 8? I found only 103 job postings on the site.

Indeed, when compared to other emerging technologies like Hadoop or even moderately new stalwarts like Android or jQuery, Windows - be it version 7 or 8 - looks anaemic from a jobs perspective:

One way to look at these data is that Microsoft is largely a non-factor in rising trends like mobile and Big Data. It's not a big deal that Windows 8 (or 7) doesn't "compete" well against Big Data technology like Hadoop, but not even being in the same ballpark as jQuery or Android is of significant concern, given that Windows 8 (and Windows Phone 8) are targeted at the same mobile market.

Forrester "conclude[s] that Windows 8 is at risk of being skipped by IT organizations, already strained by the costly and recent upgrade to Windows 7." The research firm goes on to suggest that workers may force IT to embrace a migration to Windows 8 as they install it on their laptops and tablet computers, but this seems optimistic, even despite largely positive reviews from the tech press.

My own hunch is that the transition to Windows 8 will come with the purchase of new tablets, as that is really where Windows 8 shines. Unfortunately, there aren't likely to be that many Windows 8 tablets shipped, not with the iPad so dominant and Android getting better by the release. Microsoft has an uphill battle, one that consumers are unlikely to win for it.

No, as before, Microsoft is going to need to win the hearts and wallets of enterprise IT in order to force users into its new operating system. Judging by the jobs data, this isn't likely any time soon. ®

Matt Asay is senior vice president of business development at Nodeable, offering systems management for managing and analysing cloud-based data. He was formerly SVP of biz dev at HTML5 start-up Strobe and chief operating officer of Ubuntu commercial operation Canonical. With more than a decade spent in open source, Asay served as Alfresco's general manager for the Americas and vice president of business development, and he helped put Novell on its open source track. Asay is an emeritus board member of the Open Source Initiative (OSI). His column, Open...and Shut, appears three times a week on The Register.

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