EXCLUSIVE: Corp. America to Microsoft: We'll Pass on Windows 8

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Published September 09, 2011

| FoxNews.com

Next week, Microsoft will finally pull the covers off on a new OS. And despite what Microsoft wants you to believe, the next version of Windows might be more icing on the same old cake.

Michael Silver, a vice president at research firm Gartner who studies personal computers, exclusively told FoxNews.com that many companies have what he calls “migration fatigue” and will skip Windows 8 entirely. 

"We ... expect most companies to skip it," Silver told FoxNews.com. "To the extent that the market expects companies to adopt Windows 8 in large numbers, it may be disappointed."

Corporate America just went through a massive upgrade to Windows 7, which most consider a raging success for consumers and business: Gartner estimates that 80 percent of companies skipped Vista and went to Windows 7. Some remain on Windows XP, slow to move due to costs or legacy software. Now, because of the immense cost, they'll skip Win 8 as well, he said.

But there's a silver lining to Windows 8, Silver said, a word that gives consumers goosebumps: tablets.

“The market is obviously waiting for Microsoft to have an OS that can run on a tablet that can compete with the iPad," Silver told FoxNews.com. "So far, most of the Android tablets have been less than successful. Windows 8 will be another measure of whether there is a tablet market or just an iPad market,” he said.

With Windows 8, Microsoft has its guns aimed at the Apple iPad

A new interface called "Metro" will run on top of the operating system and work with new tablets. Experts say the new UI will allow users to switch quickly between the normal Windows look and the new Metro look.

Roger Kay, the principal analyst at Endpoint Technologies, said Microsoft has quite a bit of intellectual property and patents for touchscreen interfaces. The company has mostly failed to deliver a capable touch interface, however. Silver agreed, saying earlier handhelds and the Windows Media Center UI were not major successes. He thinks this third attempt could finally pan out.

Kay is more positive about the benefits of Windows 8, such as a ribbon interface that will make its debut in just about every dialog box and bundled application, not just the Paint app.

Kay says the ribbon interface puts tools, file management and other tasks in a neat row, and lets users interact more directly with OS functions. Meanwhile, the chief competitor to Windows 8 — Apple’s OS X, now in version 10.7 — tends to rely more on shortcuts to files.

Microsoft declined to comment for this article, citing the Build conference beginning Tuesday, Sept. 13, where the company will reveal more details about the operating system.

Meanwhile, a behind-the-scenes blog about developing the next-gen OS has revealed a few details about Windows 8. The president of the Windows division at Microsoft, Steven Sinofsky, recently wrote that the new OS will provide direct access to the contents inside an ISO image, which is normally a protected file used for burning DVDs. You'll be able to mount the files within Windows 8 — a handy feature for sure.

Likewise, a few new tricks related to virtual disks will help users manage files. A virtual disk could be used for storing sensitive business information with extra encryption, for example.

One boon for new users is that the ribbon interface will take away some of the complexity of file management. In the past, users had to know to right-click a file to see properties, or to press CTRL-A to select all files. Now, these options are listed right on the screen. Each window will have tabs, similar to what you’ll find in Microsoft Office, for quickly finding advanced functions.

Rob Enderle, the principal analyst with Enderle Group, said the big draw with Windows 8 will be the Metro interface, and that Windows 8 will run on the ARM processors used for tablets. Still, the jury is undecided on whether Microsoft can actually convince people to switch from what they know to a less familiar touch interface. 

If they don’t, Windows 8 could be another epic failure, as many label the Windows Vista OS.

Windows 7 was partly successful because it was a minor upgrade from Windows Vista. Whereas, Windows 8 is more of an overhaul — and companies sometimes balk at those.

Besides, Microsoft has some new competition: Google. What seems like a niche operating system, Google’s Chrome OS could challenge Microsoft, say the experts, because it is entirely free, takes advantage of the cloud for storing most apps and data, and runs extremely fast.

The other major competitor is also an Apple product: the iOS. Every analyst mentioned this operating system, which runs on the iPhone and the iPad. There’s a swift transition taking place to portable devices, and given the high sales figures of Apple products, Microsoft had better take note.

“Apple is certainly coming on strong with both Mac OS X and iOS,” Silver told FoxNews.com. “Users are requesting Macs more frequently."

"iOS devices ... are making the PC relatively less important and putting a lot of pressure on Microsoft to respond,” he said.

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http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2011/09/09/corp-america-to-microsoft-well-pass-on-windows-8/