Analysts predict slow enterprise adoption of touch, Windows 8

Consumerisation of IT may prevent enterprises from avoiding new interfaces for long.

Enterprises may see little need to buy a touchscreen enhanced OS like Windows 8 just yet, analysts told Computerworld Australia. The new Microsoft operating system, set to debut 26 October, has more touch-friendly features than any previous Windows, but analysts said enterprises are likely to limit adoption to tablets, at least for now.

Windows 8 with its Metro interface “represents the most significant interface change that we’ve seen from Microsoft in quite a long time,” Telsyte analyst Rodney Gedda said. “It could be seen as a radical shift in user interfaces for many enterprises who might not want to have their staff using Metro with standard PCs.”

“The way that we operate the desktop and notebook is still relying on the keyboard and the mouse,” Gartner analyst Tracy Tsai said. “The Metro interface wasn’t designed for the mouse and keyboard.”

Ovum analyst Richard Edwards said he doesn’t “see mass adoption of touchscreens [by businesses] because I don’t see mass adoption in the enterprise of Windows 8.”

Microsoft argues that Windows 8 take-up does not rely on touchscreen adoption. “Windows 8 works great on existing, non-touch Windows 7-based hardware,” a Microsoft spokesperson said. “As with any operating system rollout in an organisation, start small with pilot programs.”

Asked if Microsoft had any numbers on demand for touch, the spokesperson said Microsoft doesn’t break down adoption figures locally.

“Microsoft has gone to great lengths to ensure the Metro interface still can be controlled with the mouse and keyboard,” said Gedda. And if necessary, IT managers “can still use the older interface” with the traditional desktop, he said.

But Edwards said there still is a “high learning curve” for enterprises with Windows 8’s new interface. “We have to remember that 99 per cent of people aren’t interested in technology per se; they just want to get the job done.”

It typically takes 12-15 months for the enterprise to pilot and migrate to a new OS, Tsai said. “I wouldn’t expect the enterprise would be so hurried to upgrade to Windows 8.” If enterprises find that Windows 7 is easier to use and enables more productivity, they may stay with the older OS, Tsai said. “They still always have the option to stay with Windows 7.”

“The enterprise is never the best place to trial a new operating system,” Edwards said. “We’re probably looking into beyond the midpoint of the decade before organisations start seriously and in volume start rolling out Windows 8.” For now, enterprises are likely to opt for the road-tested Windows 7, though some could add a few Windows 8 tablets and laptops, he said.

Enterprises could take a mixed approach whereby they use Windows 8 on tablets but not desktops, Gedda said. “It’s quite possible that the new range of Windows 8 tablets coming onto the market will be purchased alongside existing assets.”

Edwards agreed it is unlikely touchscreens and Windows 8 will make their debut on desktops in the workplace, he said. “We’re much more likely to see organisations looking at Windows 8 tablets as they come up to refresh their fleet of laptops.”

Greater touchscreen use is likely at the point of sale, for example in retail, he said. Aerospace, construction and engineering are other industries that may be quicker to adopt touch, he said.

Tsai predicted there would be enterprise interest in the Windows Surface tablet with Windows 8 Pro.

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