Windows 8 in the enterprise? Not next year, says Gartner

No fast rollout of the new OS, some concerns about training, say IT managers

ORLANDO -- Enterprises won't move quickly to adopt Windows 8, and most will wait till the year after next, according to market research firm Gartner.

Users at Gartner's Symposium/ITexpo conference tended to back up the view that was summarized by Gartner Research Director Peter Sondergaard. He told attendees here that "however good the prospects look for Windows 8 in the consumer market or for tablets, there are no compelling business imperatives to drive legacy devices in business toward Windows 8."

"Therefore, 90% of enterprises will bypass broadscale deployment of Windows 8 through at least 2014," Sondergaard said.

That does not mean Windows 8 is already on the ropes, even before it is officially introduced at an event in New York on Thursday. Large enterprises rarely move quickly to new Microsoft operating systems. Applications have to be tested on them, and some users believe in waiting for the release of the first service pack before considering an upgrade.

And if enterprises don't like a Microsoft product, they may be perfectly willing to bypass it -- which is what happened with Windows Vista. But Gartner isn't saying that this will be the case with Windows 8.

What Gartner analysts expect to see are more selective rollouts of Windows 8. The emergence of tablets and smartphones as the primary tools for people in some fields, such as sales, means the days of massive, enterprisewide upgrades of a single standard platform are over in many companies.

Derek Minnich, an IT program manager at a user company that he asked not be identified, said his company typically follows Gartner's guidance on deployments. Windows 7 has been running at his company for about two years and there is no reason to upgrade, he say.

The only thing that might push a move to Windows 8 is "if tablets really do overtake the PC market rapidly," Minnich said. Users will want Office products on tablets, and "that's where the entry point will be" for Windows 8, he said.

Peter Nies, who works in information security at a company that he asked not be identified, said a concern about Windows 8 is its approach. With its tiles and new interface, he worries about the amount of training that may be needed.

"From a user perspective, it scares me because it is so radically different," said Nies.

At the Gartner conference, Microsoft sponsored a panel discussion featuring customers that are early adopters. One, Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., supplies students with laptops and has been testing tablets over the years.

Stephen Landry, the university's CIO, said that students like the iPad and tablets generally, "but you can't take away the laptop" or their need for Office. Students in the class of 2016 enrolled in science or honors program are receiving the Samsung Slate PC.

Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His email address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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