Redmond aims to stay relevant in the mobile device eraPublish date: 25 September 2012 by Hanleigh Daniels
Whilst the PC utilising world is hotly anticipating the October release of the latest iteration of Microsoft’s desktop PC and tablet operating system (OS), Windows 8, market research firm Gartner believes that Windows 8, as well as Office 2013, are must make gambles for the company. This to stay relevant within a world where mobile devices and the new experiences they enable are becoming the norm.
Michael Silver, VP and analyst at Gartner, stated that Windows has been a sales powerhouse for the Redmond-based company in the past, when the PC dominated personal computing by delivering a single device to users for messaging, accessing the web, email, gaming as well as office productivity.
Silver went on to say that in recent times smartphones and tablets, most notably Apple’s iPhone and iPad, have changed this, making the PC just one of many computing devices that users employ. Gartner asserts that Microsoft is attempting to counter the ever increasing threat of tablets, by equipping Windows 8 with a tablet-friendly user interface.
“Microsoft’s approach is very different from Apple’s and Google’s, where phones and tablets have much more commonality than PCs and tablets,” Silver said. “This plays to Microsoft’s strength in PCs, leveraging it not only to enter the tablet market, but also to improve its share of the smartphone market.”
The new RT era for Microsoft
Steve Kleynhans, research VP at Gartner, added that Windows 8 marks the start of a new era for Microsoft, the RT era, that he says follows right on the heels of the NT era that kicked off in 1993.
Windows RT (WinRT) is the name of the Windows 8 edition that will come pre-installed on PCs and tablets that are powered by ARM processors. Kleynhans stated that Microsoft’s eras appear to last around 20 years, meaning that the technological underpinnings of Windows 8 should last a long time.
Microsoft is making radical alterations to the way Windows operates within the new edition, with a totally revamped user interface, similar to the one found on Windows Phone OS running smartphones. According to Gartner, this poses a risk for Microsoft as companies prefer to reduce technology risk by deploying mature, stable, well-supported products.
The research firm also sees Microsoft’s decision to opt for the new touch-friendly “Metro-style” UI and prevent users from booting to the familiar Windows Desktop setup with its traditional start menu, as one of the most controversial the company made with Windows 8. This has resulted in an OS that looks and works great on new form factors such as tablets, hybrids and convertibles, but has users questioning its appropriateness for traditional desktop as well as notebook computers, which represents the majority of the existing PC market.
Real world ramifications
Gartner is of the opinion that if Windows 8 on tablets is a success, it will have a significant impact on businesses, as it will result in many new device form factors becoming available. Coupled to this is the consumerisation of IT, with firm’s IT departments being less able to mandate which devices may be used by employees. This makes it harder to purchase and support PCs the way they have been for the past 20 years and may lead to a proliferation in bring your own device (BYOD) office schemes.
“Windows 8 has been released to manufacturing and will be formally launched in October, but the reality is that most organisations are still working on eliminating Windows XP and deploying Windows 7,” explained Silver. “Organisations will need to decide whether they continue with Windows 7 and or consider Windows 8.”
In related news, Gartner recently stated that it anticipates enterprise spending on paid social media ratings and reviews increasing, to the point where it will make up 10-15% of all reviews by 2014.