Windows 8 Upgrade Planning Begins

Windows 8 represents Microsoft's most radical departure to date from its standard, icon-based GUI for Windows. An InformationWeek survey shows IT is preparing early.
Windows 8 Visual Tour: Microsoft's New Desktop
Windows 8 Visual Tour: Microsoft's New Desktop
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Windows 8, the next version of Microsoft's venerable OS franchise will likely not be available until sometime in 2012, but business IT organizations are already beginning to develop plans for deployment.

That's one of the findings from a survey of 973 tech professionals conducted in October by InformationWeek. "We were surprised that, even at this early stage, Windows 8 is already on the radar for many IT organizations," said Art Wittmann, VP and director of research and reports at InformationWeek.

The interest is understandable. Windows 8 represents Microsoft's most radical departure to date from its standard, icon-based GUI for Windows. While the OS will still give users the option of working in the familiar Windows Explorer desktop, it also offers a mode that borrows Windows Phone's Metro UI and thus has more of a tablet or smartphone look and feel.

That's no accident. Microsoft is counting on Windows 8 to finally make it a player in the tablet market, where it badly trails rivals Apple and Google.

[ Considering Windows 8? Read Windows 8: Ballmer Shows Off 4 Features. ]

The OS also features a number of tools that should be of interest to enterprise IT departments. It provides native support for desktop virtualization, its Secure Boot technology is designed to make it tougher for hackers to infect PCs running Windows 8 at the firmware level, and, according to Microsoft, the x86 version will run any app that can currently run on Windows 7.

Microsoft is also developing a version that runs on ARM-based tablets, which does raise some compatibility issues that Redmond has yet to fully clarify.

With all that, Windows 8 gives IT departments a lot to consider--and considering it they are. Some 52% of survey respondents said their organizations already have definite plans to upgrade to Windows 8. About 10% of those said they will make the move on an as needed basis, as they retire older PCs. Around 24% said that, ultimately, 100% of their organizations computers will run the new OS, while 34% said at least three-quarters of their desktops and laptops will have Windows 8 on board.

Beyond features specific to Windows 8, much of the interest around the operating system is that Microsoft will, once and for all, end support for Windows XP in 2014. Some 36% of the survey takers said that was the main reason behind their plans to upgrade to Win8. Rich Reynolds, Microsoft's head of commercial marketing for Windows, recently told InformationWeek that there is "no chance" that the deadline will be extended.

For a more details, see our Windows 8 upgrade plans slideshow, which breaks down the numbers in more detail. Also see the full Windows 8 research report (free registration required).