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6/5/2013
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Microsoft Courts Businesses With Windows 8.1 Reveal

New report suggests Win8 is a no-show in the enterprise. Can Windows 8.1's business-centric features, revealed this week at TechEd, reverse the trend?

Though these new features will probably be welcomed by those who currently use or manage the OS, it's not yet clear if the update will reverse Windows 8's enterprise struggles.

To an extent, it's unsurprising that Win8's corporate adoption trails its overall adoption; businesses rarely rush to migrate to a new platform, usually preferring to wait until a service pack or major update has addressed bugs and improved reliability. Even in this context, though, and despite Microsoft's claims to the contrary, Windows 8 has underperformed. SysAid noted, for example, that Windows 7 had already gobbled up 11.3% of the enterprise market at the same point in its release cycle, compared to the 4.27% rate for Win8 that Net Applications reported in May.

In an interview at TechEd, Brad McCabe, senior product marketing manager of Windows Commercial, said that corporate OS upgrades demand "a lot of nuance" and are usually "customer-by-customer conversations." Still, he projected enthusiasm for Win8.1's chances, and implied that Microsoft is taking a measured approach to the new era of touch-centric computing.

McCade said, for example, that Microsoft's guidance to Windows XP customers is simply "get off XP to a modern operating system." He noted that it doesn't make sense to disrupt businesses' already-in-motion migration plans, most of which involve Windows 7.

McCade said that Microsoft recommends Windows 8 to Windows 7 customers "where it makes sense." He said tablet deployments have been one such area, but also noted that upgrades have also been motivated by the OS's security and virtual desktop infrastructure enhancements. "Each customer has their sweet spot," he explained.

McCade suggested Microsoft is hoping widespread Windows 8 upgrades will occur in 2014, and that customers are encouraged to think about touch-equipped devices as they begin to plan hardware refreshes. Once these devices are more ubiquitous, he said, "we'll probably see Windows 8 spread much broader."

There are several reasons to believe McCade is right, at least to an extent. Windows 8 is still the only platform that offers tablet apps and legacy x86 compatibility in one package. Poor reviews were likely a factor in the OS's inauspicious debut -- but other forces, such as the first touch-equipped Win8 models' prohibitively high prices, were also contributors. Though the jury is still out regarding Win8.1's impact on poor word of mouth, many of the other factors are changing.

Now that device prices are falling, for example, Windows 8's value proposition is much clearer. For evidence, one need look no further than the huge line of people waiting to buy heavily discounted Surface models at TechEd. To be fair, the conference's attendees don't necessarily represent the whims of the larger market, particularly consumers. Nevertheless, the promise of $100 Surface RTs and $300 Surface Pros compelled some attendees to queue up for more than two hours. That's the sort of response that's more typical of Apple's user base. Assuming all those Surfaces don't end up on eBay by next week, that's saying something.

Most of this potential for growth, though, involves mobile devices. Windows 8 offers under-the-hood refinements relative to Windows 7 and its the touch-oriented Modern UI, which many mouse-and-keyboard users have deemed more distracting than useful. Windows 8.1 will address this criticism with a modified version of the start button, which was notoriously omitted from Win8's original version, as well as a boot-to-desktop mode that not only bypasses the new start screen, but should also enable users to avoid using Live Tiles altogether. Nonetheless, it's unclear how successfully Microsoft has mollified the concerns of its core users, or how much Win8.1's undisclosed features will add to the mix.

Aside from the Windows 8.1 news, Microsoft's other announcements at TechEd included Windows Server 2012 RS, System Center 2012 R2, SQL-Server 2014 and updates to Windows Intune.

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melgross
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melgross,
User Rank: Ninja
6/22/2013 | 12:21:57 AM
re: Microsoft Courts Businesses With Windows 8.1 Reveal
Do you really think that people at a tech conference, which is basically a Microsoft conference, lining up to buy $100 RT and $300 Pro tablets tell us anything other than they are buying tablets well under Microsoft's cost? HP sold through its WebOS tablets when it sold them for $99. What did that tell us? It told us the same thing that this sale does, which is that people will buy something they normally wouldn't want if the price is low enough. So low, in fact, that the product could never be produced for that price without losing a great deal of money for the producer.

So, I wish writers would stop writing as though these kinds of selloffs had any actual meaning, because they don't, other than to show that the products are being valued as almost being worthless.
melgross
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melgross,
User Rank: Ninja
6/22/2013 | 12:17:01 AM
re: Microsoft Courts Businesses With Windows 8.1 Reveal
John is obviously not what he says he is.
CSPERA605
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CSPERA605,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/20/2013 | 4:15:52 PM
re: Microsoft Courts Businesses With Windows 8.1 Reveal
There's no way that businesses will move to Windows 8 any time soon. The company I work for (a fortune 100 company) is still using XP. They're moving people to Windows 7 slowly, and are just starting that move in the enterprise this year. I would expect other organizations in the same class as mine would be in similar situations.
Mike_Acker
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Mike_Acker,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/19/2013 | 11:46:16 AM
re: Microsoft Courts Businesses With Windows 8.1 Reveal
the final curtain is coming down on windows. the issue is rooted in the origin of the win/os, -- that being that it is OK to modify the target o/s to facilitate the operation of your app. such policy is now making it nearly impossible to root up the old XP machines.

worse, the basis of win/os -- that it is ok to modify the system -- is the root cause of win/os extensive vulnerabilities . that, combined with their "micro kernel" concept and executable documents running without sandboxes -- not good long range thinking -- just a quick market grab .

the shift is on: from the top: Linux. from the bottom: Android ( a Linux derivitive for ARM chips ) . the thing holding the desktop is the win/app that only runs on XP
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
6/13/2013 | 12:16:11 AM
re: Microsoft Courts Businesses With Windows 8.1 Reveal
I didn't read about RoboLinux but it might offer a "read only" XP VM. This is like a database transaction where all changes are "rolled back" when the VM is shut down. Thus, if XP got infected, you can clean the problem by simply rebooting. This might work if the customer's home folder is assigned to a network share and they don't save anything on the local VM. Of course you can lead a horse to water but...someone is bound to lose something with this setup. It also doesn't prevent a virus from getting installed and subsequently stealing data before the instance is rebooted. Still, perhaps this is the technique they use to make that claim. However, I agree that it's a pretty difficult-to-believe claim regardless of what techniques they are using.
Mordock
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Mordock,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/6/2013 | 3:18:01 PM
re: Microsoft Courts Businesses With Windows 8.1 Reveal
Where did you ever get the idea that your XP would suddenly be 100% immune to viruses and malware just because they are running in a VM under a Linux environment? I looked at their website and those people are idiots for making such claims. If any VM (under RoboLinux, VMware, XEN, Hyper-V etc) has access to the network then it is just as vulnerable as if it were running on a physical box and must be patched and protected by A/V just as though it were a physical box. Any virtualization expert will tell you the exact same thing. The only way to make any OS 100% immune would be to pull the network cable and disable all capability to connect external devices/media (cdroms, floppies, flash drives, removable HDs, etc).
JohnM587
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JohnM587,
User Rank: Strategist
6/6/2013 | 6:16:03 AM
re: Microsoft Courts Businesses With Windows 8.1 Reveal
I am an IT consultant and have many Corporate Customers who have told me they just cannot afford the huge cost of upgrading their Windows XP which still works just fine, to Windows 7 or 8 So I found a perfect solution for them before Windows XP expires. It is a new commercially available Linux operating system that runs all Windows applications and programs sandboxed inside Linux, making XP 100% immuned to all viruses and malware. requiring no future security updates or any anti virus anti malware software. It is so highly economical and bulletproof that I have already successfully deployed hundreds of these save XP from extinction Linux installs in the last 2 months alone.

This amazing 3D operating system is called Robolinux and it installs with all your drivers automatically in less than 20 minutes per pc or laptop. They have a revolutionary one click XP OS install that takes just minutes. You do have to show proof of your XP license sticker on each box, but that was easy for my Customers to do.

Check out Robolinux, it will save your company a ton of money:
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
6/5/2013 | 6:52:09 PM
re: Microsoft Courts Businesses With Windows 8.1 Reveal
Terabyte Net, based on your recent comments, I suspect there's no convincing you that many users were less than thrilled with Win8's GUI. It doesn't seem to matter how many reports attempt to quantify the learning curve's effects, or what analysts think, or how many OEM executives speak disparagingly of the OS-- you seem certain that Win8's troubles stem from media bias.

I appreciate that you bring a balance to IW's comments, and that you've helped other readers answer some of their Win8 questions. But blaming journalists to the exclusion of all other factors doesn't strike you as a little myopic?

Anyway, yes, "real work" is done predominately on PCs, not tablets. While I did not belabor this point in this particular article, you seem to ignore that I - and others at InformationWeek - have repeatedly emphasized that PCs will be essential for the foreseeable future. In fact, the article that I linked to in the "eat into Redmond's de facto monopoly" bit makes this exact point: PCs aren't dead.

That said, not all employees spend all day writing code, running CAD programs, or doing any of the other things for which new form factors aren't particularly suited. Given that not all people need a PC for work - at least not all of the time - it's natural that the PC's share of the personal computing market will fall. This doesn't mean the PC is irrelevant; rather, it means that customers have more choices with which to fulfill a given task. For some, PCs will be the choice that makes sense most often, and for others, it will be something else. Most people, I suspect, will spread their computing across a variety of devices, a trend that's already in effect.

Also, about the "iToys" stuff--it's more than email and Web browsing. ABI said in January that around 1 in 5 tablets are sold to enterprises, and given how market dynamics have evolved since then, I wouldn't be surprised if that proportion has increased a little. Some of this involves employees who want to use the same UI at work that they use at home-- but in many cases, it's about putting computing technology where it couldn't go before, such as factory floors, or out in the field. We live in an information-driven economy, and as connected devices and pervasive sensing become more ubiquitous, mobile devices will play an important role in delivering the right information to the right person at the right time. That's a big part of what is - by the measure of numerous sources - a multi-trillion dollar opportunity. And that's not even mentioning the marketing and point-of-sales applications, or the schools that are using tablets not only as laptop replacements but as tools with which to document (textually, aurally, photographically, in terms of GPS) field research.

I'll grant you that schools like tablets partially because they're cheaper than laptops and thus enable 1:1 deployments-- but just as it's simplistic to say that PCs are dead, it's likewise simplistic to write off tablets as consumer novelties.

Does this mean that most of the people who are using PCs at work today will soon be switching to tablets? Of course not. Some of them will. Others will add tablets as complements to a PC. Others still will stick exclusively with PCs. But to dismiss tablets as "toys" says less about their use than about how you define "work."

As for Windows 8 deployments-- this article actually makes the point, on the second page, that businesses typically wait a while before adopting a new OS. You're right about Vista; Windows 7's adoption was inflated by disappointed Vista users, and Windows 8 has no such feather in its cap. That point probably could have been included in this article-- but again, as a frequent reader, you might have noticed that I've pointed out the Vista issue before. And even so, it's not like Windows 8's adoption is only a little behind Windows 7's.

As for Windows 8.x having its day, I've repeatedly argued that Win8's market share is primed to take off. I've framed this argument around tablets, price points, Intel chips, and BYOD (though so has Microsoft) so perhaps that's the reason you disagree. But yes, at some point, Windows 7 users will upgrade to something else, and for many of them, it will be to whatever version of Windows make sense at the time, whether that's Win8.x, Win9, or something else. But that inevitability isn't an endorsement of the GUI, and it doesn't seem that some businesses wouldn't have been hesitant about the Live Tiles if they'd actually been in position to upgrade.
Mordock
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Mordock,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/5/2013 | 5:42:16 PM
re: Microsoft Courts Businesses With Windows 8.1 Reveal
I have to agree with Terabyte, it seems that all MS wants to talk about is mobile, touch and BYOD. But that isn't what the vast majority of users have or will have for years to come.

And we are still back to the start button. Let's just look at my desktop. Standard 1080 screen, my start menu has 11 items pinned and 20 recent items listed. I use the small icons because the large ones just waste screen space and don't allow me enough menu items. Then there are the 12 standard items in the left column, Run, Control panel, admin tools etc. Now lets see you put 43 icons on the metro interface and still only take up about 15% of the screen.

Which brings up another problem: repainting the entire screen to display the "app menu" is stupid. It is a massive waste of video bandwidth as well as CPU in an age when there is a serious trend towards visualizing the desktop and using thin clients. In a virtual environment, video bit of bandwidth and every CPU cycle are precious, wasting them display just a few buttons on the metro interface is just plain stupid.

As an IT administrator of a virtual environment, the first thing I want to do is totally disable Metro just like I have already totally disabled Aero.
Terabyte Net
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Terabyte Net,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/5/2013 | 3:50:48 PM
re: Microsoft Courts Businesses With Windows 8.1 Reveal
You've always been able to restrict Windows to 1 or more applications by Group Policy. That's nothing new for businesses, though they may be making it easier for small businesses not using an Active Directory domain.

Also, when you state "iOS and Android have started to eat into Redmond's de facto monopoly over workplace computing" you fail to point out that the only thing they're doing with iOS and Android is checking e-mail and browsing the web (though large numbers of web sites don't work with either since they don't support Flash and sites haven't moved to HTML5 in vast droves like Apple and Google have assumed). Real "workplace computing" is, and will be for the foreseeable future, done on a real computer running Windows in the vast majority of situations. Let's see a 100MB PowerPoint marketing presentation or payroll for a few hundred thousand employees done on an iToy. It's simply not happening. BOYD brings toys to the office, not functional business tools.

As for 8.1, there are certainly good things coming in 8.1, but the reason enterprises aren't deploying 8 isn't because of Metro, it's because of Vista. Businesses skipped Vista in large numbers and are just now deploying Windows 7 because it's very mature. Businesses did not deploy XP or Windows 7 the year or two after they shipped either. 8.x will have its day, but continuing to claim 8 isn't being deployed because of its GUI is just not valid, it's sensationalist writing designed to draw readers.
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