Organizations that are still shifting from Microsoft Windows XP to Windows 7 should stay the course. Others should consider if the benefits of Windows 8 will justify deployment beyond tablets.
On 29 February 2012, Microsoft made a "Consumer Preview" of Windows 8 for x86-based machines publicly available for download.
Gartner expects Microsoft to launch Windows 8 around 4Q12. Although the name Consumer Preview (CP) suggests a consumer focus, the release includes features of interest to enterprises — particularly in the area of tablet support — and should be treated as a "beta 1" release. Microsoft claims that this release is nearly feature-complete and sufficient for daily use, albeit with normal beta software and operating system (OS) caveats.
The tablet-friendly features will capture attention, but we are recommending that most organizations continue with to replace Windows XP and Vista with Windows 7 for most other PCs. Windows 7 has been very well received and is relatively mature and stable. Even if Windows 8 ships as expected, most independent software vendors (ISVs) will need nine to 18 months to officially support their software on a new OS, which means that Windows 8 will likely need until late 2013 or early 2014 to mature sufficiently for broad deployment. Windows XP Extended Support, including new security fixes, will end on 8 April 2014. ISVs are currently shipping new business applications that require Windows 7. Most organizations should limit their time investment to Windows 8 CP and follow through on full Windows 7 deployment.
Windows 8 will include several features of interest, including better tablet support; Windows To Go, which allows a user to run his or her copy of Windows on another PC; Hyper-V,which supports virtualization; enhanced security; and multilanguage capabilities on all SKUs without Software Assurance.
In most cases, however, the benefits of these features do not outweigh the risks of staying on Windows XP while waiting for Windows 8 maturity. Further, Gartner expects that the popularity of Windows 7 will result in relatively low penetration of Windows 8 PCs in the enterprise, which could make it more difficult to find ISV support .
All organizations: Expect end users to install Windows 8 for use on your network. Either take steps to limit usage, or engage users in testing to better understand the benefits and compatibility with your enterprise applications. Initially consider PC deployment only for users where Windows 8 provides specific advantages.]
Organizations considering Windows for tablets: In 2013, evaluate Windows 8 as an alternative to other more mature tablet platforms. Organizations contemplating application development for Windows tablets should use the CP release to gain experience in Metro development.
Organizations challenged to complete fast-paced, full-scale migrations: If the task of migrating all users to a new OS within a 12 to 24 month time frame is a challenge for your organization, consider deploying Windows 8 by PC attrition but only after eliminating Windows XP. Windows 7 organizations should consider deploying Windows 8 by attrition starting in 1Q15. Windows Vista organizations should target 1Q14 to start with Windows 8, but may be better off joining the masses and introducing Windows 7 on new PCs even sooner.
Organizations that intend to deploy Windows releases on an alternating basis: Apart from the scenarios described above, most organizations (including Vista users) should plan to skip Windows 8 and instead focus on full Windows 7 deployment. Gartner will re-evaluate this recommendation when information on Windows 9 is available.
Some documents may not be available as part of your current Gartner subscription.
"Creating a Timeline for Deploying Windows 7 and Eliminating Windows XP" — Gartner recommends that organizations remove Windows XP before Microsoft and ISVs end their support for it. By Michael Silver
"The Benefits Side of a Windows 7 Business Case" — To support planning and budgeting, this research describes three main benefit components of a Windows 7 migration. By Michael Silver and Stephen Kleynhans