Don't Change Your Windows 7 Plans Because of Windows 8

G00218009

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Summary

Windows 8 is an ambitious product, and organizations running late with Windows 7 may be considering it. However, enterprises running XP should stick with Windows 7 migration plans to avoid the risk of a gap in support.

News Analysis

Event

On 13 Sept 2011, at its Build Conference in Anaheim, California, Microsoft previewed Windows 8 for developers. Microsoft says that Windows 8 will run on hardware configurations that are similar to or lower than those of Windows 7, and that it is adding an ARM edition to run on lower-powered devices. Windows 8 will include a new user interface (UI), similar to that found on Windows Phone 7.

Analysis

With Windows 8, Microsoft hopes to deliver a compelling new user experience via a single operating system platform that spans multiple hardware architectures (x86/64/ARM) and a full range of devices, including handheld devices, tablets, notebooks, desktops and servers. The centerpiece is a new UI called Metro, adapted from Windows Phone 7. The preferred programming model is HTML5/CSS and JavaScript. Microsoft says that all languages will be supported, but we believe HTML5/CSS and JavaScript will be more strategic.

Metro-style applications, aka Windows Runtime applications (formerly called "tailored apps") are designed to be a full-screen, “immersive” experience. Windows 8 is designed for “touch first” but will be enabled for mouse, pen and keyboard as well.

Windows 8 will be a watershed release for Microsoft, which is hoping to reinvigorate its image in the consumer market. While Microsoft's desktop products have been doing well in the enterprise, products from vendors such as Apple have overshadowed Microsoft's offerings in the consumer market. And, as most recently demonstrated by the iPhone and iPad, consumer products are becoming increasingly important in the enterprise, as users bring tools they use at home into work. Windows 8 could enable Microsoft to compete more effectively with Apple in the “media tablet” space, where Microsoft has no offering.

On a cautionary note, Microsoft is not tuning the experience to specific device types, thereby risking that the user experience on any given form factor may be suboptimal.

Microsoft did not disclose a ship date, but Gartner believes it may plan to target back-to-school buyers in 2012 — in which case, the release to manufacturing (RTM) would likely start around April 2012, a date that would allow general availability by midyear. However, even if Microsoft meets that very aggressive timeline, independent software vendors (ISVs) and enterprises will likely need nine to 18 months to obtain and test supported applications and plan deployments. That means that most organizations would not be able to start deploying Windows 8 before YE13. With support for Windows XP ending in April 2014, we believe it would be dangerous for organizations now running XP to attempt to skip Windows 7 and move directly to Windows 8.

Recommendations

  • Organizations running Windows XP and working on Windows 7 migrations: Continue as planned; do not switch to Windows 8.

  • Organizations that find it difficult to do “forklift” upgrades: Consider bringing in Windows 8 through attrition.

  • Organizations interested in new devices enabled by Windows 8: Consider Windows 8, even if you intend to skip Windows 8 for traditional PCs.

  • Enterprise developers: Become familiar with the Metro style of applications, which will likely be the preferred desktop metaphor in the future as the focus for Windows 8 applications.

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© 2011 Gartner, Inc. and/or its Affiliates. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction and distribution of this publication in any form without prior written permission is forbidden. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. Although Gartners research may discuss legal issues related to the information technology business, Gartner does not provide legal advice or services and its research should not be construed or used as such. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof. The opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice.

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