In a bid to stay relevant in a world where mobile devices with new modern experiences are becoming the norm, Microsoft must take a big gamble over the next few months with Windows and Office, the two products responsible for most of its revenue and profit, says Gartner.
There was a time when the Windows-based PC dominated personal computing by providing a single device for messaging, Internet access, gaming and productivity. But modern devices like smartphones and tablets, led by the iPhone and iPad, have changed the way people work, making the PC just one of the several devices people use.
According to Gartner, with Windows 8, Microsoft is trying to address the excitement of the tablet market by adding tablet interface to Windows.
"Microsoft's approach is very different from Apple's and Google's, where phones and tablets have much more commonality than PCs and tablets," said Michael Silver, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. "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."
"Windows 8 is not your normal low or even high impact major release of the OS," said Steve Kleynhans, research vice president at Gartner. "It's the start of a new era for Microsoft — the RT era — which follows the NT era, which began in 1993 and is just now starting to fade out. Microsoft eras seem to run about 20 years, so the technology underlying Windows 8 will last a long, long time."
Gartner says that making major changes to Windows poses a risk for Microsoft as organizations like to reduce technology risk by deploying mature, stable, well-supported products. Windows Vista suffered something similar. Its lack of success has reduced its useful life as third parties have already started cutting support for it. As a result, IT leaders are questioning whether Windows 8 will also suffer a similar fate.
The research firm believes that the new "Metro-style" UI is probably the most controversial decision Microsoft has made in Windows 8.
“The result is an OS that looks appropriate on new form factors of PC hardware including tablets, hybrids and convertibles, but has people questioning its appropriateness for traditional desktop and notebook machines, which comprise the majority of the existing PC market,” reads a Gartner report.
However, Gartner believes that if Windows 8 on tablets is successful, it will have many impacts on organizations. There will be many new device form factors to choose from and users may have very different needs and likes from one another. Some will still want to use an iPad and a traditional notebook and others may want different, new devices.
Microsoft licensing is also an important topic in many organizations because it can represent a significant percentage of the annual IT budget. Organizations need to decide if they require Software Assurance (SA) on Windows or an Enterprise Agreement as well as reevaluating their decisions based on changes Microsoft is making to the Windows 8 SKU lineup and SA benefits.
"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," said Silver. "Organizations will need to decide whether they continue with Windows 7 and or consider Windows 8."