After 2012 launch splash, Windows 8 faces enterprise skepticism
Also, while Windows RT comes with its own version of Office, the suite isn't licensed for business use. Plus, the Outlook e-mail client software ubiquitous in enterprises can't be installed on Windows RT machines. Windows RT also lacks many IT management tools and features present in Windows 8.
IT managers also need to carefully review their business applications, and whether their vendors are supporting them on Windows 8, Gartner's Silver said.
Yes, applications built for Windows 7 should work on Windows 8 for x86, but just because a Windows 7 application runs on Windows 8 doesn't automatically mean that the application vendor will offer customers support for it if something goes wrong while using it on the new OS, Silver said.
In particular, IT managers must be aware that the only IE browser that runs on Windows 8 is the new IE 10, so any applications that currently depend on earlier versions need to be tested, he said.
While Windows 7 applications are supposed to run on the traditional Windows 8 desktop, Silver predicts that many third-party software vendors will not rush to port their applications to the new Windows 8 interface.
"In supporting the new interface is where you'll see application vendors drag their feet because today, especially in the enterprise, there is no big audience for those applications yet," he said.
Still, some application developers are jumping at the opportunity of creating Windows 8 applications for tablets. Toyota Racing Development, Toyota's motor sports arm in North America, is reworking a Windows 7 application called Trackside.
This application is designed to help NASCAR racing teams affiliated with Toyota to sharpen their performance on the track, especially during practice sessions, by recording lap times, plotting graphs and generating comparisons with competitors.
For that reason, it will be much more effective when deployed on smaller, touchscreen tablets as opposed to in regular laptops like it is today, said Darren Jones, group lead of software development at Toyota Racing Development.
"The driver can now sit in the car with all safety equipment on and mine through the data, put in his own input on how the car is handling and give it to the crew chief," Jones said.
The application, which is exclusively for Toyota racing partners and is thus not commercially sold, was tested towards the end of this year's Nascar season and is expected to be finished by the time the next season starts, he said.
As 2012 draws to a close, Windows 8 is engaged in its own race. It's crucial for Microsoft that Windows 8 give the company a presence in the tablet market, and in particular among enterprises.
Tablet sales ignited with the release of the first iPad in 2010, roughly six months after Windows 7 came out. At the same time, PC sales have shrunk. In the third quarter, worldwide unit shipments dropped 8.6 percent year-on-year, a drop IDC called "severe" and attributed to market pressure from tablets and smartphones.
Gartner forecasts worldwide media tablet sales to end users to total 119 million units in 2012, up 98 percent compared with 2011. Gartner expects Apple's iOS to continue its dominance with a projected share of over 61 percent. Windows is expected to ship in only 4.8 million tablets this year.
Microsoft is so focused on improving its position in the tablet OS market that it's risking angering its hardware partners by selling its own Surface device both with Windows RT and soon with Windows 8.
"We truly re-imagined Windows, and we kicked off a new era for Microsoft, and a new era for our customers," Ballmer said during the Windows 8 launch event in late October.
Later, he said: "Our enterprise customers will also love the new Windows 8 devices."
As the year ends, 2013 will provide a clearer view into Windows 8's acceptance in the enterprise and into its chances of success and failure there, and whether it will be for Microsoft an era characterized by success or disappointment.
Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.
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