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Why IT chiefs are irrelevant to Microsoft's Windows 8 strategy

Redmond looks to barge its way in via BYOD

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Further evidence has emerged of the irrelevance of Windows 8 to enterprise IT – and of the irrelevance of this irrelevance.

A Forrester survey of IT hardware decision makers has found Windows 8 is less popular than its predecessor Windows 7 at the same stage in their launch cycles.

Just a quarter of firms expect to roll out Windows 8 versus half for Windows 7 back in 2009. Just 5 per cent plan to update to Windows 8 in the next 12 months, compared to 10 per cent in 2010.

The fact enterprises are not interested in Windows 8 and have no plans to migrate should come as little surprise for two reasons.

One is that a vast majority are only now beginning to move to Windows 7, thanks to the impending demise of Windows XP. Windows XP to Windows 7 means an application rewrite for many, and getting off Internet Explorer 6 - unless they use a get-around such as Browsium’s Ion.

The other reason is Microsoft’s own field sales team are pushing Windows 7. The goal for Microsoft’s fiscal year 2013 is 70 per cent of enterprise PCs running Windows 7.

Taken together, these two facts are one reason statements such as this from analysts like Forrester are obvious.

However, Forrester is looking in the wrong direction. Despite what Microsoft would try to have us believe - that Windows 8 is business-ready - businesses are not Microsoft's big focus on Windows 8. And that's why talk of lack of interest among IT shops is irrelevant.

Microsoft wants Windows 8 to prove a hit with consumers, hence the decision to produce and promote Glee-style ads for Surface.

If this strategy is successful then Microsoft can secure an end-run around enterprise IT as consumers bring Windows 8 devices into work. Then, IT shops will end up supporting Windows 8 on their network; there's no need for hardware types in the IT shop to bother refreshing their own PCs.

Twenty per cent, or one in five, of those surveyed said they’d prefer Windows 8 on their next touchscreen tablet – almost the same as iOS - according to Forrester. The only curiosity is that Forrester has included Windows 7.

“Which operating system would you prefer to use on your next tablet?” was the question Forrester asked. The survey respondents gave Windows 8 equal billing to iOS, but Windows 7 pulled in 12 per cent support, placing it third.

Given that Windows 7 has no touch capability to speak of, this suggests users want to stick with what they know and to make their existing apps work in a world of touch. This is not what Microsoft wants, however. It wants people to buy new Windows 8 licences and for people to buy Windows 8 on new machines.

While existing Windows 7 apps will run on Windows 8, what you can’t do is pinch, squeeze or swipe them and you don’t get the data and interface integration that comes with apps for Windows 8.

It's early days for Microsoft's Windows 8 BYOD hopes. From what we’re seeing, Windows RT- and Windows 8-based tablets from Microsoft and others are not materialising in numbers and Gartner doesn’t expect sales will provide the much-needed jolt to the chest of the flatlining PC industry during the Christmas period.

The test for Microsoft’s plan to subvert corporate IT will be whether Windows 8 devices arrive in large enough numbers through the established PC-makers’ channel to make a difference. If they do, and this results in a reasonable level of sales, Redmond is surely hoping the touchy fondletops and tiled phondleslabs will barge their way into the enterprise in the same way that Apple's iPhone and iPad once did. ®

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