It’s been exactly a week since Windows 8 has been released, and Microsoft is doing its best to convince IT professionals and system administrators to adopt their latest client OS. As I pointed out in my article from last week that presented six reasons why you should deploy Windows 8, there are a fair number of impressive new features and improvements that make test-driving Windows 8 a requirement for anyone in IT.
All that said, Windows 8 isn’t a sure thing for IT shops. While Windows 7 has been almost universally praised by administrators, end-users, analysts, and journalists – and has the sales figures to prove it – Windows 8 is running into what can only be described as a headwind on the IT adoption side of things.
I’ve written a bit about this in the past, including a piece about how Windows XP continues to remain entrenched in many enterprises despite Microsoft’s best efforts to remove it, and how many IT professionals I’ve spoken with aren’t rushing to embrace Windows 8. It’s not just me making this claim, with analysts at research firm Gartner predicting that Windows 8 will only get a “20-25% adoption rate in the enterprise.” Over at my old stomping grounds at Windows IT Pro, Senior Technical Director Michael Otey – one of the smartest people I know in IT – has even gone so far as to ask if Windows 8 is the next Windows Vista.
So as a counterpoint to the article I wrote last week that pointed out some reasons why you should deploy Windows 8, for the sake of fairness I’ll take the opposite stance this week, and present you with six reasons why IT departments may not want to deploy Windows 8.
1. Limited IT budgets
While there are promising signs that the U.S. economy may be finally dragging itself out of its multi-year recession, many IT departments are reluctant to spend more money than is needed to keep their IT operations running smoothly. Many IT departments are still running on Windows XP — or just made the switch to Windows 7 — and the thought of an immediate upgrade to Windows 8 is likely out of the question. Even though Microsoft’s support for Windows XP officially ends on April 8. 2014, several IT pros I’ve spoken with intend to keep using XP as long as they can — or at least until IT budgets increase enough for them to consider a move to either Windows 7 or Windows 8.
2. Training costs
I’ll readily admit that Microsoft is taking a bold, courageous gamble by introducing Windows 8, which is clearly optimized for touch-enabled and mobile devices. It’s a move that Microsoft had to make, but it also introduces a radically revamped interface — formerly known as “Metro” — that simply works best on devices with touchscreens. Changing the ubiquitous and well-known Windows GUI is the functional equivalent of moving the steering wheel and gas pedal in a car, and Microsoft risks befuddling millions of users accustomed to using the old Windows. IT departments look at that possibility with dread: Who wants to have the bulk of their IT budget consumed by training for end-users just to get access to the same applications they were having no trouble finding with their existing — and fully functional — Windows OS? This has been the number one reason I’ve been told by IT pros why they aren’t in a rush to adopt Windows 8.
3. Windows XP and Windows 7: Good Enough?
For many IT departments, Windows XP and Windows 7 have more than enough life left in them for the vast majority of their computing needs. It’s a testament to the decades-long investment Microsoft has made in the Windows platform that it now is more than capable of handling most computing needs. Windows 8 does have some impressive new features, but as solid and reliable as Windows XP and Windows 7 have been for IT professionals, Microsoft may have a hard time convincing them that upgrading the vast quantities of desktop PCs in their organizations to an OS primarily designed for touch and mobile devices isn’t a smart financial move.
4. Optimized for tablets and touch devices
I’ve touched on this briefly already, but Windows 8 is an impressive product that is clearly designed to put Microsoft in a more competitive position with the flood of iPads, iPhones, and Android devices flooding offices around the world. Microsoft clearly is caught between a rock and a hard place: Ignore these touch and mobile devices and risk Windows eventually becoming irrelevant, or take a risky gamble by re-inventing Windows for a new era? If you plan on major hardware refresh in your organization that includes lots of touchscreen-enabled PCs, tablets, and smartphones, Windows 8 becomes much more attractive.
5. The mobile and cloud era
Ironically, one of the reasons that Microsoft decided to take such a radical design turn with Windows 8 was to better position Microsoft Windows against tablets, smartphones, and the rise of cloud-based software and services. Windows 8 is optimized for working with tablets and cloud services, but many organizations — especially start-ups and smaller companies — have already moved past Windows and adopted a multi-device approach to running their IT departments. People in sales are using iPads on the road, connected to cloud-based services like Salesforce.com, while some corporate email is moving to cloud services like Google’s Gmail. Windows 8 is an impressive product, but Microsoft may find that the barn door has been open for a long time, and that some companies may have decided that an all-Microsoft IT ecosystem isn’t in their best interests. Desktop PC sales have been slumping, and the PC — and the most popular OS that powers it, Windows — simply isn’t as relevant (or as dominant) as it was just a few years ago, when smartphones and tablets weren’t steadily eating into PC usage numbers like they are now.
6. The wait until SP1
Finally, the old axiom that many IT professionals follow when it comes to Microsoft software upgrades is to “wait until SP1.” Combined with all the other factors I’ve outlined above, nervous IT pros may not want to rush their entire organizations onto a brand-new OS that is bound to have some glitches, bugs, and other first-release issues. Working in IT successfully — especially when operating under extremely limited budgetary and human resource constraints — sometimes means more about making sure things are running smoothly than adopting the latest and greatest technology.