NEWS ANALYSIS: Microsoft wants nothing more than for the enterprise to upgrade to Windows 8. But the company’s upcoming Windows 8.1 won’t be the platform to make it happen sooner.
Windows 8 is officially a huge issue for Microsoft. For more than two years, the company was promoting Windows 8 as the next best operating system on the market that would establish a new vision for how software and, specifically, Windows would operate in the future.
But soon after Windows 8 launched it became clear that the average consumer was not excited by the new operating system and didn't pay much attention to it. What's worse, the enterprise, which has always been the mainstay of Microsoft's success, decided that there was no rush to upgrade to Windows 8 because corporate users were happily productive with Windows 7.
In response, Microsoft is hyping Windows 8.1, a free update to the operating system that the software giant says will deliver the features and experience that the original Windows 8 doesn't. From enhanced personalization to an improved search, Windows 8.1 will be just what the doctor (or perhaps the enterprise) ordered, Microsoft says.
Still, the company is wrong
. Windows 8.1 won't speed up corporate upgrades and, at least over the next couple of years, won't do much to change the fate of Microsoft's operating system.
These are the reasons why.
1. Budgets are still a problem
The biggest issue facing Microsoft and Windows 8 right now is the heavy constraint companies are placing on budgets. Despite some thawing last year, companies are still loath to assign much more cash to IT budgets, which is probably why IT spending is up just a few percentage points over the past year. The tight IT budgets means there is precious little room to spend money on Windows 8 upgrades or even the purchase of new PCs preinstalled with Windows 8.
2. Microsoft's stubbornly sticking to the design
Although Windows 8.1 will be a nice step up over the current offering, Microsoft has decided to stick with the same tile-based design
in the upcoming update. That's one of the chief issues on the enterprise IT side and something that Microsoft must address if it's ever going to appeal to corporate users.
3. IT will need to examine the software
Let's just say Microsoft finds a way to get the IT decision-makers to consider Windows 8.1. Even in the short term, the software giant shouldn't expect a quick turnaround in Windows 8 upgrades. The enterprise is notorious for taking a long time to analyze software and make a buying decision. Windows 8.1 won't change that
4. The upgrade cycles are delayed
Because of the economic downturn and the myriad ways companies can spend their IT budgets, PC upgrade cycles have been delayed. That was made abundantly clear in the fourth quarter of 2012 when PC shipments fell a surprising 4.9 percent compared with the same period in 2011. Gartner, the research firm that provided the bleak picture on the PC market, said it expects a "very cautious ongoing approach to outlay on hardware" in the enterprise.