Windows 8's Best Chance Depends On BYOD?

Windows 8 will do better with consumers than IT departments, says Forrester report.

Michael Endler, Associate Editor,

May 16, 2013

5 Min Read

8 Things Microsoft Could Do To Save Windows 8

8 Things Microsoft Could Do To Save Windows 8

8 Things Microsoft Could Do To Save Windows 8(click image for slideshow)

The good news for Microsoft is that Windows 8's BYOD prospects are pretty decent, according to a report published Thursday by research firm Forrester. The bad news? IT is in no rush to adopt Microsoft's divisive new OS. Also, competition from Apple and Google for consumer dollars remains fierce.

The report, lead-authored by analyst David Johnson, states, "Most businesses will not adopt Windows 8 as their primary standard, but must be prepared to meet employee BYOD demand.”

Beyond explaining Microsoft's Win8 predicament, the report also reinforces that the PC industry is undergoing a "dramatic shift." Tablets and smartphones have usurped many tasks once relegated to desktops and laptops, and they've enabled social and mobile applications that simply weren't feasible with traditional machines.

But these upstarts can't do everything, so PCs remain relevant. However, users now can choose from a variety of devices, and a lot of them choose to use tablets, or to spread their tasks across a range of devices. IT has been forced to accommodate this shift in preference, and the pecking order of major tech players, such as Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Intel, has begun to realign.

[ Looking for deals on Windows 8 apps? Read 8 Free, Must-Have Windows 8 Apps. ]

Forrester notes that 38% of employees would prefer to use Windows 8 on their work computers, which actually outpaces the 35% who'd choose Windows 7. Among tablet users, 20% would like Windows 8 and 26% would like iOS. Though this interest in Win8 tablets is notable, and supported by other evidence, the report cautions that enthusiasm for iOS, Android and OS X remains strong. Forrester found that iOS is particularly popular with the "most influential employees," noting that Apple customers typically earn higher salaries and hold higher positions within their companies. iOS was the most-preferred tablet OS across all income brackets, but its advantage was more pronounced among the best-paid users. Windows 8 was second in all categories.

The report claims IT staffers perceive iOS as the most-preferred OS for tablets, and cites the iPad's rich user experience and ease-of-use as some of its prime appeals. Nevertheless, Forrester expects both Android and Windows 8 to eat into Apple's share. This view is tempered by the report's caution that Win8 still needs more Metro apps to attract consumers. Forrester believes there is a market for a premium Windows experience but that Microsoft and its OEM partners are still catching up to Apple's design lead. The report characterizes Windows RT, meanwhile, as confusing for not only users but also for IT in managing it and figuring out software licensing.

Forrester expects user interest to carry Windows 8 into the enterprise via BYOD, alongside more iPads, Android tablets and other devices. Even so, the report suggests Win8 is unlikely to become the workplace favorite that Windows 7 has been. Formidable competition on the mobile front is one factor -- but more importantly, Forrester has detected little enthusiasm for Win8 among IT staffers, many of whom are happy to keep using Windows 7.

The report attributes IT's Win8 hesitancy to a number of concerns, such as the amount of user training a full deployment might entail, and how many applications would need to be redesigned to take advantage of the OS's new interface. Given that Windows 7 is such a strong performer, Windows 8 just doesn't add enough extra value to be the primary OS at most businesses, Forrester concludes.

It should be noted that although the report is new, it cites statistics derived from studies conducted between June and October of 2012. As a result, some of the data points, such as correlations between salary and brand preference, reflect how respondents felt before Windows 8 was widely available. The report still reflects Forrester's research since the studies were conducted, but the point remains: when respondents were surveyed, neither the OS's slow adoption nor the polarizing reactions to its UI would have been variables. Windows Blue would have been, likewise, a non-factor.

But in a sense, the imminent arrival of Blue, now officially named Windows 8.1, reinforces the importance of these early statistics. A decent number of people were once enthusiastic about Windows 8, but based on the OS's low usage share, that enthusiasm hasn't yet translated to sales. Part of the problem might have been the UI, or at least the bad press around the UI. Maybe it was the lack of apps. Perhaps it was due to the fact that the first round of Win8 devices were expensive, and that affluent buyers evidently prefer Apple. Whatever the issue, Windows 8.1 has the potential to address all of them.

There's the chance, of course, that the update won't meaningfully improve the Windows 8 experience. But it's more likely that Win8.1 turns the platform into something more like what people had hoped for in the first place -- back when one in five told Forrester that they'd like a Microsoft tablet. And prices will be coming down, too. The prospect of a tablet that runs Microsoft Office and x86 applications is powerful, but perhaps not powerful enough to sell hundreds of millions of devices in the $600 - $1000 range. With Windows 8.1 models about to invade the iPad Mini's price range, Forrester's statistics affirm how much Microsoft could still gain as well as how much it could lose.

One thing, though, is certain: there will continue to be a variety of OSes, including Windows 8, at work in the enterprise. Forrest suggests that businesses prepare by hurrying to finish their Windows 7 migrations, implementing formal BYOD programs, exploring cloud and virtualization, and piloting limited Windows 8 deployments.

About the Author(s)

Michael Endler

Associate Editor,

Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 and, pending the completion of a long-gestating thesis, will hold an MA in Cinema Studies from San Francisco State.

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