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As businesses flee the coming 'XPocalypse,' they're turning to Windows 7, not 8

Mark Hachman | Oct. 17, 2013
Microsoft is ending support for Windows XP, but even that won't spur Windows 8 adoption

In fact, here's what Microsoft wants your IT staff to do: Buy a Windows 8-qualified PC, even if it's currently running Windows 7. The thinking is that eventually we'll all see the light and demand upgrades. And even if that new IT machine is running Windows 7, it can still take advantage of hardware advancements such as TPM (Trusted Platform Module) for secure boot, UEFI, and BitLocker Drive Encryption. And because that new, Windows 8-qualified PC will feature a touchscreen, it will be ready for business when your company eventually decides to throw the switch.

Well, that's how Microsoft sees it, but your company probably feels differently. "Rightly or wrongly, we see people keeping older machines as long as possible," says Chuck Brown, director of product management for Fiberlink. "And [Windows] 7 is the path of least resistance."

Windows is selling, but which version?
Eventually, Microsoft hopes that Windows 8.1 will end up appealing to businesses, as well as to consumers. If you buy a Windows 8.1 tablet, such as a Surface, you'll be able to tap into your corporate domain through a feature called Workplace Join. Data that you download from company servers will remain company property, and will be deleted after you leave the company. (That's good news, actually. Previously, your company would just remotely wipe your PC.)

According to Raley and Brown, some businesses will naturally switch to Windows 8.1 as notebooks based on Intel's latest fourth-generation Core or "Haswell" processors become more prevalent—or if those businesses sign on to use the new second-generation Surface machines.

So why hasn't Windows 8.1 appealed to businesses? The cause goes beyond simple negative mindshare among consumers. Earlier this year, Dell's KACE management unit said the answer was that customers were suffering from OS fatigue—that Windows 8 is too big of a conceptual leap for most business users. And Brown says that businesses are reluctant to give up the mouse-and-keyboard paradigm that dates back to Windows for Workgroups. "It's hard to switch to Excel and PowerPoint with your finger," Brown says.

But now that Windows 8.1 is about to be released, the response is more rhetorical: If an organization has XP-qualified hardware that can run Windows 7, why even bother with 8? "If you're using a traditional desktop or notebook without a touchscreen, you may be just fine with Windows 7 forever," Dell's Raley says, "or as long as you can keep it."

That said, companies that began their transition away from Windows XP really late may want to adopt Windows 8 for a select class of employees: people who work standing up and/or directly communicate with customers. "That's where you'll find a lot of value," Raley says.

 

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