IDC Crystal Ball: Windows 8 Outlook Gloomy
Windows 8 faces significant hurdles when it's released, if Microsoft doesn't refine its mobile strategy.
Windows 8's ultimate success could rest with the developer community and how strongly it embraces Microsoft's forthcoming operating system, according to a new report.
On a more positive note, there could be upside with Windows Server 8 and cloud computing for Microsoft.
Those are a few of the prognostications made about Windows 8, according to a "Top 10 Predictions" report published by IDC this month.
IDC's report offered a number of reasons for a somewhat pessimistic view of Windows 8's prospects. However, Windows 8 is just one item in a report that airs predictions about public and private clouds, the success of VMware, consumerization of IT, Linux-based cloud computing and the prospects for infrastructure heterogeneity, among other matters.
The Windows 8 critique appears to be centered on Microsoft's tablet strategy. However, the report also downplayed prospects for PC upgrades from Windows 7.
"Windows 8 will be largely irrelevant to the users of traditional PCs, and we expect effectively no upgrade activity from Windows 7 to Windows 8 in that form factor," the report states.
Microsoft's Windows 8 tablet strategy could falter if it fails to move its developer community, and such failures have happened with past Windows releases, the report noted. The authors also suggested possible problems with Microsoft's current mobile strategy.
"IDC believes that Microsoft's success with Windows 8 on tablets will be disappointing during 2012, and if it does not change some of its philosophy in how it is approaching the mobile market, it will not be successful longer term," according to the report.
Currently, Windows 8 is released at the pre-beta "developer preview" stage. However, rumors suggest it could be out in beta form in late January or late February. IDC expects that Windows 8 will see the light of day as a product as early as the second quarter of 2012, but not past August at latest.
Al Gillen, IDC's program vice president for system software, said that the report uses a constructed Windows 8 production timeline, based on vendor comments. Microsoft hasn't publicly disclosed its Windows 8 release plans as yet.
"We've heard comments from various vendors saying that they are promising to have a Windows 8-based device out in the second or third quarter of 2012," Gillen said in a telephone interview. "So that kind of feedback seems to correlate with what my interpretation of what the timeline needs to be. At this moment, I have no reason to believe that it would go a lot longer than that, but I have no official confirmation from Microsoft either."
Microsoft is planning Windows 8 for x86 and ARM hardware for both PCs and tablets. However, the report pointed to success with Windows 8 on ARM as being most important for addressing Apple's competing mobile products. IDC isn't the only analyst firm offering sharp thoughts about Microsoft's consumer tablet strategy, as Forrester Research has weighed in too.
Gillen sees Windows 8 on ARM as more of a pure tablet play.
"All along, the expectation has been that ARM-based devices would be largely tablet oriented and not necessarily PC oriented in the way that Windows 8 on the x86 environment is going to be," Gillen said.
IDC's report was bullish on Windows Server 8's prospects. When used in combination with Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization technology, Windows Server 8 will improve private cloud deployment prospects, the report predicts.
The report sees 2012 as a good year for the deployment of private clouds, and Gillen explained why.
"The fact is that private cloud is considered a good halfway point between virtualized infrastructure and a public cloud, and a lot of organizations are not ready to go to public cloud," he said.
IDC's report, "Worldwide System Infrastructure Software 2012: Top 10 Predictions," can be accessed at IDC's site here.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.