With Windows 9 rumored to be coming out early next year, there's little reason for businesses just transitioning off Windows XP to ever deploy Windows 8, experts say.
With a user learning curve, hardware update and apps compatibility all posing potential hurdles to Windows 8 adoption, most businesses transitioning from Windows XP will likely wind up using Windows 7 as their new platform of choice, says Shawn Allaway, CEO of Converter Technology, which specializes in migrating businesses to new versions of Windows and Microsoft Office.
In fact, none of Converter's clients has chosen Windows 8 as an XP upgrade, he says.
+[ Also on Network World: Prediction: Windows 9 will hit the market in 2014 | China prefers to stick with dying Windows XP rather than upgrade | Microsoft opens headquarters for digital crime fighters +
With Windows 7 being supported until Jan. 14, 2020, that leaves time for another version or two of Windows beyond Windows 8 to emerge that could be less jarring, he says.
Business customers aren't swayed by new features and interfaces, he says. "They're looking for stability, not necessarily the cutting edge," says Allaway. "Once an operating system is stable and locked down they fight hard to keep it there as long as they can."
Businesses have to worry that their legacy line of business applications render properly to a touchscreen interface like Windows 8's and want to avoid having to rewrite those apps, Allaway says.
Running apps in a virtual environment on Windows 8 machines gets around apps compatibility, says Scott Dowling, Microsoft Architect for En Pointe Technologies, which provides businesses with hardware, software and IT services.
Dowling says that when he worked for Microsoft last year, if the sales team he worked with talked up Windows 8 to enterprise customers, they would buy it 80 percent of the time; otherwise it was 50-50. That doesn't say whether they actually deployed Windows 8, just that they licensed enough instances to cover their entire business, he says.
He says hardware wasn't much of an issue in their decision making. Most customers had already upgraded their PCs to devices that were far beyond the minimum Windows 8 requirements.
Businesses do worry that switching to new versions of Windows that have significant changes to the user interface causes productivity hits as workers get used to performing tasks in different ways, Allaway says. This is especially a concern for large companies where 40,000 workers might be affected, multiplying the effects of inefficiencies caused by the changeover.
He says XP had an extraordinarily long 13-year run for an operating system. Microsoft will have learned its lesson and tie the operating system in with, say, new functionality of Microsoft Office, pushing customers to upgrade Windows 7 sooner than they did XP. "It will be a great coup if they cut that down to five years," he says.
They are attracted to an operating system that is secure, but the security advantages of Windows 8 over Windows 7 haven't been a decisive factor, he says.
Tim Greene covers Microsoft and unified communications for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter@Tim_Greene.
Read more about software in Network World's Software section.