Why many developers and enterprises are taking a 'wait and see' approach to Windows 8 PCs and tablets
“Portability is really what will help the adoption of Windows 8 for the development community, but there’s not much excitement yet”, Dipesh Mukerji, senior director of product strategy and marketing at app development house Kony, told TabTimes.
"The hot areas are still iOS and Android so they [developers] want to build there, as that is where there is both great brand loyalty and an emotional connection to their products. Consumers are married to their iOS and Android devices, and to break through that connection takes an OS that can at least match it or exceed it."
“It’s definitely a ‘wait and see’ approach so we don’t see any developers jumping in right away.”
Mukerji’s view certainly appears to ring true when looking at both figures from analysts and opinions from some of the leading developers.
A joint study from IDC and Appcelerator in October found there's "mild optimism" among developers for the new OS, with a reasonable 33% indicating their preference to build apps for Windows 8 tablets in Q3, a solid figure if somewhat short of Android and iPad penetration.
Indeed, despite the protestations from both Steve Ballmer and Microsoft officially (which claimed that 100,000 apps will be coming to the Microsoft Store in the next three months), it would appear that most software developers remain somewhat noncommital on the new platform.
“There is a good fit between Readdle Productivity apps and the Windows 8 audience. But we are not in the Windows App Store yet, nor started developing for it,” Readdle spokesman Denys Zhadanov told TabTimes in a recent interview.
Developers will move to Windows 8 when enterprise starts upgrading server
Despite pessimistic signs of when or how many developers will start working on Windows 8, there is a line of thinking that much of this will hinge on enterprises, most of which only recently moved to Windows 7, upgrading to Windows 8.
That time, according to PC Helps, a help-desk company on all things to do with Office applications, is very soon.
Conducting a survey on enterprises’ views on Windows 8 just last month, the firm found that 70% of these huge organizations are already on or in the process of migrating to Windows 7, with 38% already having had some hands-on time with Windows 8.
In fact, 25% indicated that their companies were already anticipating a move to Windows 8, with 17% of respondents (and 30% of CIOs) expecting to start migrating as early as this fall.
A full 40% reckon migrations will start from the middle of next year, according to the study with PC Helps claiming that enterprises are looking seriously at Microsoft’s latest OS.
“They’re all looking at it, and looking seriously at these new devices running the OS”, said Lori Zelko, SVP of marketing at PC Helps. “But it’s still so early, and some people hear predictions from Gartner and get a little skittish.
Indeed, PC Helps admits some enterprises could be perturbed by the massive overhaul of Windows, said to be the biggest reinvention of the OS since Windows 95.
“There is a great deal of concern in enterprises every time there’s a change of interface that is used by a lot of people,” said Joe Puckett, Director of Recruiting and Training at PC Helps.
“But that buzz, be it positive or negative, may not be justifiable. People that have worked with it [Windows 8] haven’t found it hard to make the adaption, although some may not see the benefits instantly”.
Kony’s Mukerji thinks that enterprise uptake to Windows 8 will come, but suggests that the OS will just have to sit tight as companies lay the foundations for upgrading.
“I think adoption will happen more as enterprises move their back-end to Windows. Companies typically have timetables when they’re going to upgrade, and these schedules take time.
“But eventually that will happen and it will give them [enterprise] a reason to push a Windows 8 phone or tablet.
“B2E is a much clearer path [for adoption] as there is less emotional connection when IT upgrades its desktops and servers, and people will then start using these Windows 8 tablets, servers and desktops.
In time, developers will notice that the market is growing and the Windows Store will grow.”
IT departments could push the Surface over the iPad as Windows 8 grows
PC Helps believes that the rise of Windows 8, and notably Microsoft’s own Surface tablet, could represent a challenge to the iPad in the enterprise and potentially check the rise of BYOD.
“One thing we did hear from a client last week was that the Surface is more of a replacement for a PC than the iPad, especially with the integrated Office apps,” said Zelko.
“It’s one thing seeing the iPad being used by corporations, but it’s still wall to wall Microsoft in the office and getting attachments out on the road is not that easy.”
“With BYOD we suspect that IT departments will be driven to embrace Windows 8, as the Windows Center 2012 even has a section to manage these as well as other mobile devices.
“It does this all from one console so it’s easy to manage and you only have to learn one thing. That’s pretty attractive to the IT architecture.
“The folks we had in last week were saying that they weren’t going BYOD, but we’ve spoken to others that are really moving to BYOD and will let users choose the device they want. But there’s definitely a tablet strategy thinking they can replace the iPad."
Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer has openly questioned before if Windows 8 could represent an alternative to this BYOD trend, and 451 Research analyst Vishal Jain believes that that will be the case, even if some enterprises will be confused by the Windows RT, 8 and Windows 8 Pro branding.
“Windows 8 opens an interesting alternative to BYOD. The first important milestone for Microsoft though is to see Windows 7 and XP users migrate to Windows 8.
“However, that won’t happen too soon as businesses do not see an immediate need for the desktop products," Jain added. "So the interesting thing is to see how would the offering of Office suite on tablet-like devices and convertible notebooks running Windows change that perception for businesses and really get them to go all out and look at these Win 8-based form factors as an answer to both their mobility and desktop needs.”
So it may be a case of “slow and steady wins the race” for Windows 8 in the enterprise. A recent Forrester Research study showed that 20% of IT pros would already rather have a Windows 8 tablet compared to 26% for the iPad. While this still shows iPad in a stronger position in the enterprise, it's an encouraging sign for Windows 8 tablets given how new they are.