Forrester: Windows 8 faces uphill battle as corporate desktop

IT thinks Windows 8 is a change "but not yet a positive one" from earlier Windows versions

Windows 8 faces an uphill battle to become a standard corporate operating system because many businesses are in the midst of or have recently completed the move from Windows XP to Windows 7 and don't have the stomach for another transition anytime soon.

That’s the bottom line from a Forrester Research report that also says businesses need to prepare for a grassroots push from employees who want to use the operating system for work.

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The report “IT will skip Windows 8 as the enterprise standard” says that 48% of commercial PCs run Windows 7, and 76% say they are deploying new PCs running Windows 7. These figures are based on a survey of 1,282 PC decision-makers in North America and Europe last fall. Projecting ahead to this fall 26% of that group say new PCs issued by their companies will run Windows 8.

Last fall 46% of those surveyed hadn’t looked at Windows 8 and 4% had plans to deploy by this fall, the report says, and 24% said their organizations had no specific plans for Windows 8 deployment although they expected to at some point.

“IT decision-makers see Windows 8 as a significant change from Windows 7, but not yet a positive one from the enterprise IT perspective,” according to the report.

Part of IT’s reluctance stems from “confusing behavior between applications running in the touch interface and those running in the traditional desktop environment” in Windows 8, Forrester says. “Accordingly, interviews with (infrastructure and operations) professionals reveal that their top concerns are the potential for significant end user training and support and the need for application redesign to take advantage of the new interface.”

Similarly the version of Windows 8 that runs on ARM processors – called Windows RT – has drawbacks for businesses. “Windows RT will not run legacy Windows apps, cannot join a Windows domain, and there can be licensing considerations for business use. This will confuse consumers and enterprise buyers alike,” Forrester says.

While IT departments are slow to embrace Windows 8, employees like it. A Forrester survey done in the fourth quarter of last year says 38% of employees would prefer to use Windows 8 on their work computers vs. 35% for Windows 7.

Interest is strong for Windows 8 tablets (20%) as well, but not as strong as it is for iPads (26%). “These numbers suggest that IT organizations should prepare for a strong initial push to formally support Windows 8 or permit employee-owned Windows 8 devices,” Forrester says, but, “iOS is still preferred by employees in tablets, at least for now.”

Forrester found that 60% of employees say they have better technology at home than at work, and that last year 36% were willing to pay part or all of the cost to get the devices of their choice to use at work. That’s up from 21% in 2010.

Windows 8 is preferred by about 20% of those surveyed across all income brackets. IPads are preferred by 25% of those making less than $50,000, and that percentage rises as income rises peaking at 41% for those making more than $150,000. “Our research with Apple device adoption, for example, reveals that Apple buyers typically make more money and have higher positions in the organization, which we anticipate will continue.” Holding higher positions in businesses means those who are influential making decisions within the organization, the report says.

Tim Greene covers Microsoft and unified communications for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at tgreene@nww.com and follow him on Twitter@Tim_Greene.

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