Microsoft Gambles With Windows 8

Analysts say the consumer focus of the next version of the operating system could turn off enterprise users.

Analysts parsing Microsoft's recent revelations about the next generation of Windows are split on the risks posed by focusing the update on touch technology and the needs of the consumer market.

"They're betting the farm on this one," said Wes Miller, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft who was part of the vendor's Windows team from 2000 to 2004.

Miller said that Microsoft must avoid alienating the enterprise customers that drive Windows revenue. "Microsoft's problem is, how do they keep the existing customer base with Windows while addressing touch?" Miller said.

Microsoft showed off parts of the new operating system, code-named Windows 8, earlier this month at the All Things Digital technology conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., and at the Computex trade show in Taiwan.

Windows 8 is described by Microsoft executives as a "reimagining" of its decades-old cash-cow operating system. It responds to both touch and keyboard-and-mouse navigation and can run a wide range of devices, from small tablets to large desktop systems.

Gartner analyst Michael Silver said that while Microsoft had to create a "next-generation lighter-weight OS" like Windows 8, it's likely that enterprises will initially skip the new release, just as most did with Windows Vista. Microsoft itself endorsed that tactic by recommending that businesses now deploying Windows 7 stick with their plans. Windows 8 is expected to be released sometime next year.

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