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Windows 8 coming in 2012? 6 reasons why this could derail Windows 7 now

Microsoft long ago leaked 2012 as the release date of Windows 8. If you haven't rolled out Windows 7 yet, will it be tempting to wait?

Years ago, Microsoft leaked a 2012 target date for Windows Server 8. With developer versions of both the client and server operating systems out now, 2012 is still being kicked around as the target release date, sources say. At Microsoft's BUILD conference, the company is being deliberately coy about the date. It wants developers to invest now in Metro-style apps, but it doesn't want to stall enterprises from their Windows 7 and high-profit Office 2010 implementations.

Windows Division President Steven Sinofsky told BUILD attendees on Tuesday that Microsoft has now sold over 450 million copies of Windows 7. "Windows 7 consumer usage is finally greater than Windows XP usage," he said.

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That, however, is a matter of who you ask and how you slice the pie. According to Pingdom.com, W7 overtook XP in April, 2011 in the United States. But as of last month, August, Pingdom still pegged XP at 42.6% of the worldwide operating system market, with W7 at 37.7% (and Vista at 11.3%) based on aggregated visitor stats from over three million websites.In North America, as of August, W7 was modestly ahead, with 38.7% while XP had 27.9% and Vista had 16.4%. In Europe, the stats are similar (39.3%, 35.7% and 15.8%, respectively).

But others show W7 is still lagging. According to the stat counters at Net Applications, XP use is still ahead of W7 in North America, with XP at 35.2%, W7 at 34.4% and Vista at 15.4%.

And ALL of them show that there are still way more non W7 users (XP and Vista combined) than W7 users. This even though Windows 7 has been available since October, 2009.

Sinofsky emphasized W7's maturity, too, saying Microsoft has made 1.502 non-security product code changes since the company released W7 to the public. Note that the latest W7 release is SP1. Microsoft released SP1 to the public in February 2011. (It announced SP1 in March 2010 -- the fact that it took a year to get the service pack out is the subject for another post).

According to the PC Advisor blog, by kluging together these dates and Microsoft's promised operating system roadmap, we can conclude that Windows 8 is still on track for a 2012 release date while W7 SP2 will arrive only a few months prior.

Microsoft believes that it should ship a new version of Windows every two to three years, while service packs should be released ever 12 to 18 months. Windows 7 Service Pack 1 was made available 16 months after the launch of the operating system, so in theory Service Pack 2 should be released between February and July next year. Furthermore, in the case of Windows Vista, Microsoft made sure Service Pack 2 was released five months before the next iteration of the Windows operating system. Microsoft has previously said Windows 7 [SP2] will be released sometime during 2012, but has remained silent on exactly when. However, if a new version of Windows is released every three years then we should see Windows 8 hitting the shelves by October 2012. This could mean Windows 7 Service Pack 2 will be released in May 2012.

As details emerge about Windows 8, and what a completely different beast it is from all previous Windows operating systems, given the timing guesstimates, I have to wonder ... will enterprises stall their Windows 7upgrades to wait for Windows 8?

There's a few reasons why this might make sense.

1. End of life for extended support of Windows XP SP3 is April 8, 2014. Even if Microsoft doesn't release W8 in time for the 2012 holiday season, it would likely be out before April, 2014.

2. The new hardware that supports Windows 8 is faster and conserves power better ... and prices for the new Metro-style apps can be expected to be more in line with smartphone apps ... a few dollars an app, rather than tens of thousands, I gathered from a snarky remark made during a demo in Sinofsky's BUILD keynote. (After building a photo doodle application, the Microsoft product manager set the price for the Metro app at $8.) This might be a big opportunity for enterprises to reimagine how and what applications they serve to users and how much they pay for them.

3. Windows 8 might present enterprises with incentive to move some users to cloud apps -- even freebie ones. Although there are many questions about how the enterprise will control W8's built-in integration with Windows Live, Windows Live includes (as of today) free cloud versions of Microsoft Office software including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote. There may be cases where those versions are adequate for some workers and an enterprise can reduce its CAL count.

Additionally, Microsoft has been coy about saying how older Win32 apps will be supported on Windows 8. The Windows 8 client includes Hyper-V and this is presumably how clients will run these apps. If you are using Hyper-V to serve custom Windows apps, maybe full desktop virtualization is viable, allowing you to skip the fat-client W7 rollout altogether.

4. In another vote for full desktop virtualization with Windows 8, Microsoft says legacy applications won't run on new ARM-based PCs and tablets. Intel x86 PCs/tablets will be required. This is a bone thrown to its buddy Intel. But if ARM devices are less expensive than x86 versions, perhaps a TOC study will show that its cheaper to use the ARM devices with cloud/Web versions of your legacy software.

Windows 8 kernel

Microsoft shows Metro-style as integrated apps vs. legacy apps as silos.  

5. Microsoft is billing Metro-style applications as super easy to develop. Rather than testing and modifying custom apps for Windows 7, an enterprise may be able to more easily alter those apps for Windows 8. (Ok, I admit this is unlikely, but maybe.)

6. The consumerization of technology means that if IT gives users outdated technology, they'll buy their own. To be putting users on Windows 7 in 2012 when Windows 8 hype will be at its height is keeping them one generation behind at work but not at home.

On the other hand, Microsoft hasn't yet told a compelling enterprise story with Windows 8. I assume it must be crafting one because it will want enterprises to upgrade to Windows Sever 8 in lockstep with the new client OS. So maybe Windows 7 will become the new XP.


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