Business adoption of Windows 8 won't happen overnight and will likely involve a gradual phasing in alongside Windows 7 rather than a wholesale enterprise-wide swap-out of one operating system for the other, according to Microsoft's chief marketing officer for Windows.
Windows 8 represents a generational shift in how Microsoft regards the relationship among the operating system, hardware and applications that will take time for customers to understand and adapt to, says Tami Reller, who serves as CMO and CFO of Microsoft's Windows and Windows Live division.
At the moment available hardware in retail stores and apps designed specifically for Windows 8 are still ramping up, Reller told analysts at the Credit Suisse technology conference, but they lag behind where they need to be.
While there are some compelling Windows 8 hardware options for sale already, "It's not enough in our opinion. ... I think it's good but not great in terms of the full touch assortment," she told the conference.
As for Windows 8 business tablets, "there are scenarios where that's going to make a ton of sense and we feel really good about our offerings there for enterprises today and what's to come from our OEMs," Reller says.
She says she expects more options to crop up in the next few months because Microsoft has certified 1,500 Windows 8 devices proposed by partners, and in January Microsoft itself will come out with its Surface Pro tablet/laptop that supports both traditional Windows 7 apps and Windows 8 Modern apps.
Reller says it will take time for business customers to write line-of-business apps for Windows 8 and its touch environment, and that will further delay widespread Windows 8 enterprise adoption, but those apps will be a powerful incentive for ultimately migrating to the new operating system.
She says Microsoft recognized that many businesses would still be transitioning to Windows 7 from Windows XP during the Windows 8 launch five weeks ago, making it likely that they wouldn't be up for a move to Windows 8 for possibly years.
One goal of Windows 8 design was support for making that shift gradually, Reller says. "And so we fully expect and knew that we needed to have a solution for customers to be able to really run Windows 7 and Windows 7 applications alongside Windows 8 and Windows 8 apps," she says.
Likely businesses will recognize cases where it makes sense to deploy Windows 8 to certain employees but not others based on their hardware needs and the applications they require to do their jobs. "We'll see departmental usage of Windows 8," she says. "I think that's a good way to summarize it, either scenario usage, departmental usage, people will be bringing in their Windows 8 devices into the environment, and so IT will want to support that."
She says Microsoft already has a number of business customers working on such Windows 7/8 hybrid deployments and they are working on how best to accommodate that. "They're learning and we're learning and so we'll see. I think there's a lot of potential," Reller says.
(Tim Greene covers Microsoft for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/Tim_Greene.)
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