Challenges Ahead for Window 8, IDC Report Predicts

Analyst firm says rollout may be "lackluster"; few upgrades from Windows 7 expected.

Windows 8's expected rollout in 2012 may be lackluster, claims IDC in its Top 10 Predictions report released this month.

The analyst firm offered several reasons for its pessimistic view of Windows 8's prospects. The operating system prediction joins forecasts about public and private clouds, the success of VMware, consumerization of IT, Linux-based cloud computing, and the prospects for infrastructure heterogeneity..

The Windows 8 critique is due, in part, to Microsoft's tablet strategy; the report downplays prospects for PC upgrades from Windows 7.

"Windows 8 will be largely irrelevant to the users of traditional PCs, and we expect effectively no upgrade activity from Windows 7 to Windows 8 in that form factor," the report states.

Microsoft's Windows 8 tablet strategy could falter if it doesn't move the developer community; such failures have occurred with past Windows releases, the report explained. The authors also suggest possible problems with Microsoft's current mobile strategy, pointing out that the analyst firm "believes that Microsoft's success with Windows 8 on tablets will be disappointing during 2012, and if it does not change some of its philosophy in how it is approaching the mobile market, it will not be successful longer term."

Currently, Windows 8 is in its pre-beta "developer preview" stage. However, rumors suggest that it could enter a true beta in late January or February. IDC expects Windows 8 will be released as early as the second quarter of 2012, but no later than August.

Al Gillen, IDC's program vice president for system software, said the report uses a constructed Windows 8 production timeline, based on vendor comments. Microsoft hasn't publicly disclosed its Windows 8 release plans.

"We've heard comments from various vendors saying that they are promising to have a Windows 8-based device out in the second or third quarter of 2012," Gillen said in a telephone interview. "So that kind of feedback seems to correlate with what my interpretation of what the timeline needs to be. At this moment, I have no reason to believe that it would go a lot longer than that, but I have no official confirmation from Microsoft either."

Microsoft is planning Windows 8 for x86 and ARM hardware for both PCs and tablets. However, the report pointed to success with Windows 8 on ARM as being most important for addressing Apple's competing mobile products. IDC isn't the only analyst firm offering sharp thoughts about Microsoft's consumer tablet strategy, as Forrester Research has also weighed in.

Gillen sees Windows 8 on ARM as more of a pure tablet play.  "All along, the expectation has been that ARM-based devices would be largely tablet oriented and not necessarily PC oriented in the way that Windows 8 on the x86 environment is going to be," Gillen said.

IDC's report was bullish about Windows Server 8's prospects. When used in combination with Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization technology, Windows Server 8 will improve private cloud deployment prospects, the report predicts. 

The analyst firm sees 2012 as a good year for the deployment of private clouds, and Gillen explained why. "The fact is that private cloud is considered a good halfway point between virtualized infrastructure and a public cloud, and a lot of organizations are not ready to go to public cloud," he said.

IDC's report, Worldwide System Infrastructure Software 2012: Top 10 Predictions, can be accessed at IDC's site here.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.