Over the last few months our product management and engineering teams have been in the process of evaluating Windows 8 in both the desktop environment and on Windows 8 tablets. I have to say from a marketing managers’ perspective, Windows 8 is pretty nice looking on the tablets and offers some unique capabilities. However, this particular blog is not a review of Windows 8, but to pose the questions around whether businesses will adopt Microsoft’s newest operating system once it is released (Microsoft hasn’t announced a specific launch date, but speculation is it will be sometime between July and October).
Over the last twelve months we have seen the market share of Windows 7 increase significantly from 35 percent (April 2011) to 53 percent in April 2012. This increase isprimarily due to migrations from Windows XP. With so many companies adopting Windows 7 in 2012, will IT organizations make the move to Windows 8 if it is released in the second half of the year? Many reviews of Windows 8 have said that the new “Metro” interface bears no resemblance at all to traditional Windows, and will be unfamiliar to users. I believe this is a short-sighted perspective and think we need to give users a little bit more credit.With over 5 million Kindle Fire tablets sold and over 3 million in Nook Color tablet’s sold and millions of other Android devices in the market, users are figuring out the whole tablet concept whether it is on an iOS, Android, or Windows 8 device.
It appears that one of the biggest issues in the market for Windows 8 might be its identity: Is it a Tablet or Desktop Operating System? I think this is actually a good thing for Microsoft as it will allow a transition point for Windows desktop users into a tablet environment, and the majority of users are comfortable with Windows based applications in the enterprise environment. Many of the Windows 8 tablets I have seen have docking station capabilities, USB ports, blue tooth, 3/4G SIMs, multiple monitor support and much more. Once users get comfortable using a tablet with a docking station, multiple monitors, and they can sit on the train to and from work while using SaaS based tools over their 4G connection, the tablet becomes the preferred tool for users over laptops. (Even though our VP of Product Management, Steve Workman, jokes that a tablet with a keyboard is really just a laptop. Yes, he has a point).
Will businesses adopt Windows 8? I absolutely believe it will happen. Maybe not immediately, but it will happen. The Windows operating system still holds 83.6% (including mobile operating systems) of all operating systems in the world. That tells me that most users are comfortable with Windows, and statistically have a higher chance of adopting a tablet with an operating system that they are comfortable with for their day-to-day business functions. Don’t get me wrong. I have an iPhone (Although I prefer my wife’s HTC Evo running Android), and enjoying playing games and surfing the web on my iPad. But from a business productivity perspective, I would easily convert to a powerful Windows 8 based tablet that I can dock and use a keyboard and mouse while at my desk, bring it home and dock it in my home office or ride the train to work while finalizing a Powerpoint or checking marketing campaign statistics in an Excel spreadsheet.
Only time will tell what path users will take. Microsoft has been wrong before, but they have been right more times than not! I would love to hear your perspective in the comment below whether or not you see your organization adopting Windows 8.