Enterprise users are much less enthusiastic about Windows 8 than they were for the previous Windows version, according to reports.
We are just days away from the release of Windows 8 on October 26, and The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Windows 8 is getting a tepid response in the enterprise.
Back in 2009, 66 percent of those surveyed expected or planned to use Windows 7, according to the Journal. Only half expect or plan to use Windows 8. Only 1 percent said they planned to skip Windows 7, while a full 10 percent report planning to skip Windows 8.
One possible explanation could be that large, complex operating systems are becoming less necessary in the age of cloud services. Operating systems like Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7 were created in a different time, when client-server ruled the enterprise. Today, as mobile increasingly takes hold, the need for these large operating systems diminishes.
Another possible reason could be just how horrible Windows Vista was. Many companies stuck with Windows XP, skipping Vista and going straight to Windows 7, which was much more stable. When Windows 7 was released, IT pros lunged at it like a life preserver.
How important is the operating system in this world that Ray Ozzie called the post-PC era on his way out the door of Microsoft? Even Microsoft was smart enough to build an OS designed to be a hybrid desktop-mobile operating system.
Yet, that has caused confusion, especially among those people who are still using Windows on a PC. The tile interface of Windows 8 is like nothing users have seen before. Windows 8 is a complete shift away from the model that started with Windows 95 and a Start button. That means companies will have to train their workers to make the switch, which just adds to the pain and to the overall cost of switching. And if you forgo the tiles and use the Start button retro interface, there is little reason to upgrade.
But beyond that, as we make this transition to mobile, we will begin to rely more on cloud applications and less on client-server ones. This means the underlying operating system becomes less important. You certainly don't need heavy client programs like Microsoft Office with many cheaper and less bloated alternatives in the cloud.
Many people will still want Office, of course. But for people who just have basic document-creation needs, cloud alternatives will suffice.
It's one of the reasons Google has been pushing its Google Chrome OS, which is basically just a front-end to the Internet, not unlike your phone except on a bigger screen. Not everyone will be comfortable with this particular approach -- I know I wasn't -- but most users will get used to it after a period of adjustment.
I'm not suggesting we are witnessing the death of the desktop. Instead, I see a time soon when not everyone in the enterprise will require an expensive Windows and Office license. Some people will need it and demand it, but unlike today where most workers have the same operating system and the same basic package of office productivity apps, I can see enterprises moving away from this approach to a cheaper, two-tier approach where mobile workers and those who require reduced functionality will use a lighter weight, less expensive underlying operating environment with cloud applications. IT will purchase a limited number of licenses for those who require desktop functionality.
All of this means we could be entering a transitional period where we begin to see the end of reliance on complex desktop operating systems.
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— Ron Miller is a freelance technology journalist, blogger, FierceContentManagement editor, and contributing editor at EContent magazine.