Windows 8 Is a Big Gamble for Microsoft: Gartner

Microsoft’s Windows 8 launch in October could help the company stay relevant in an era of tablet computing and touch-screen interfaces, but it isn’t without risk.

The launch of Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 8, is a potentially risky move for the software giant, according to IT research firm Gartner. With mobile devices and experiences rapidly altering the way people live and work, Microsoft is adopting a more tablet-like interface to help it stay relevant, but could fall into the same trap as it did with Windows Vista, which Gartner estimates just 8 percent of PCs run by Gartner clients ran Vista at its peak.

"When the PC dominated personal computing by providing a single device for messaging, Internet access, gaming and productivity, Windows was a powerhouse for Microsoft," Michael Silver, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, said in a prepared statement. "However, smartphones and tablets, led by the iPhone and iPad, have changed the way people work, making the PC just one of several devices people use. The PC is increasingly simply a peer with other devices."

While the redesigned interface could well appeal to users of tablets and other touch screen interfaces, such as desktop PCs, Gartner questioned its appropriateness for traditional desktop and notebook machines, which comprise the majority of the existing PC market. If Windows 8 does find success among organizations, its impact could be widespread, impacting the way IT departments deploy personal computing devices in an age of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiatives and the general consumerization of IT.

Many large technology companies, such as Hewlett-Packard, are already rolling out a number of new Windows 8-loaded PCs, including a new EliteTab tablet, which will be revealed next month, and a convertible laptop/tablet with a removable screen. Dell also recently unveiled a notebook, tablet and desktop PC running Windows 8 for business users in anticipation of the Oct. 26 launch of the software.

"Microsoft's approach is very different from Apple's and Google's, where phones and tablets have much more commonality than PCs and tablets. This plays to Microsoft's strength in PCs, leveraging it not only to enter the tablet market, but also to improve its share of the smartphone market,” Silver said. "Windows 8 has been released to manufacturing and will be formally launched in October, but the reality is that most organizations are still working on eliminating Windows XP and deploying Windows 7. Organizations will need to decide whether they continue with Windows 7 and/or consider Windows 8."