Gartner: Windows 8 is a Necessary Risk for Microsoft

Analysts at Gartner said on Monday that Microsoft is making a big gamble with Windows 8, but a necessary one if the Redmond company wants to stay relevant in a multi-screen world.

The news arrives as the release date of Windows 8 grows near. Microsoft has received a lot of criticism for the new operating system's new touch-based focus, seemingly pushing aside the typical desktop user that has fed it millions for decades. Even Microsoft's own Steve Ballmer has admitted the importance of this launch, calling 2012 the company's most epic year.

As Michael Silver, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, points out, Windows was once a powerhouse for Microsoft when the PC platform dominated personal computing. However, smartphones and tablets, led by the iPhone and iPad, have changed the way people work. The PC is now one of many computing devices – a peer with several other gadgets that are more user-friendly on-the-go.

But with Windows 8, Microsoft is trying to play on the same level, to feed off the "excitement" of the tablet market by adding its own tablet-friendly features. "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. "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." 

Steve Kleynhans, research vice president at Gartner, said the release of Windows 8 isn't your normal low or even high impact major release of Microsoft flagship platform. Instead, it's the start of a whole new era – an era that includes the launch of a new non-x86 platform for Microsoft: Windows RT. This ARM-based OS follows the NT era which began in 1993 and is just now starting to fade out. That said, Microsoft "eras" seem to last 20 years, so the foundation of Windows 8 should last for a long time.

Making radical changes to Windows poses a risk for Microsoft as organizations like to reduce technology risk by deploying mature, stable, well-supported products, the firm said on Monday. There's also the controversy surrounding the Modern UI – it looks appropriate on new form factors like tablets, hybrids and convertibles, but people are questioning its appropriateness for traditional desktop and notebook machines, which comprise the majority of the existing PC market.

Gartner believes that if Windows 8 on tablets is successful, it will have many impacts on organizations. It may also force IT to establish additional bring your own device (BYOD) programs, as it will be harder for IT to buy and support PCs the way they have for the past 20 years. Many workers will still want to use an iPad and a traditional notebook and others may want different, new devices.

"Windows 8 has been released to manufacturing and will be formally launched in October, but the reality is that most organizations are still working on eliminating Windows XP and deploying Windows 7," Silver said. "Organizations will need to decide whether they continue with Windows 7 and or consider Windows 8."

Additional information is available in the Gartner Special Report, "Is Windows 8 in Your Future?" which can be read here.

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  • kensingtron
  • Old_Fogie_Late_Bloomer
    "Instead, it's the start of a whole new era..."
    More like the end of an era... :-(

    And yes, I know that one era has to end before another starts. "Start of a whole new era" makes it sound like what's coming is better than what's past..."end of an era" characterizes the situation much more accurately.
  • bucknutty
    I have been using windows 8 since the first consumer preview. I use almost every day on my laptop, and I have not grown to like it. I figured if I just used it enough I would like it, but that has not happend. The new resource manager is sweet though... i wonder if there is a way to port that to win7.
  • shafe88
    "Is Windows 8 in Your Future?"
    Nope, as I don't plan on buying a tablet any time soon.
  • dark_knight33
    The issue isn't Microsoft's use of a touch centric UI for phones & tablets, the issue is forcing that UI on to a platform that is by a vast, vast majority dominated by a peripheral (kb & mouse) use. I don't know anyone at all that uses touch for interaction with an office or home PC. More-over, touch can in some instances slow down productivity. Copy/paste on android, iOS, and especially webos is a damned nightmare compared to selecting text with the mouse, and ctrl-c & ctrl-v your done. If Microsoft stopped trying to force a UI change, and allow it happen organically, the new OS would go from "a disaster" to another mediocre product. Nobody wants to be force fed changes, and so people will just cling to W7, like some still cling to XP, until the bitter end.
  • phatboe
    I think I am going to stick with the old era's OS. The new era's UI sucks badly.
  • herbsthewerd
    I don't think MS cares if W7 hangs on for another 5-10 years. W8 will take off on tabs and phones, laying the groundwork for W9 to dominate when ALL screens are touch. Does anyone believe that electronics manufactures will be producing products that DON'T have touch in 5 years?
  • braitBR
    If it fails on the desktop, port every under the hood improvement to Windows 7
  • killerclick
    The problem is not that Microsoft is focusing on handhelds and touch interfaces, they problem is they're forcing desktop users along the same path. Why wouldn't thy allow desktop users to completely bypass Metro if they want to? Not open the "desktop app", not switch back and forth between two incompatible halves of the same OS, but bypass it completely. Why not?

    Of course it's about the app store, the fact that Microsoft is looking to get 30% from every app sale, and they're willing to throw hundreds of millions of desktop Windows users under the bus to improve their bottom line.
  • killerclick
    herbsthewerdDoes anyone believe that electronics manufactures will be producing products that DON'T have touch in 5 years?
    Sure, but it won't become a dominant interface for non-handheld devices. My screens are three feet away from me, I can't reach that far.