Windows 8 Has Gaps to Fill

Axel Oppermann, Analyst beim Marktforscher Experton Group. Foto: Privat
Axel Oppermann, analyst with market research organization Experton Group. Photo: Private At the beginning of January 2013, Microsoft announced that it had already sold 60 million licenses for Windows 8. Just four weeks after the new operating system hit the market, sales had reportedly reached 40 million. How do you interpret these figures?

Axel Oppermann: Of course you can talk in terms of success if a manufacturer manages to reproduce the kind of strong sales figures it achieved in the past. Windows 8 is currently selling as well as Windows 7 did when it was first launched. The studies we have conducted at German companies bear this point out: The vast majority of businesses that are currently using Windows XP want to migrate to Windows 8. So acceptance for the new system is there. In my view, however, the figures being announced by Microsoft do not paint a true picture.

In what way?

In IT, it’s not about repeating past successes. A market-leading vendor like Microsoft must always position itself at the forefront of the latest market innovations: At the moment, that’s the market for tablet PCs and smartphones. Microsoft has not issued any sales figures for Windows 8 on tablets, nor can it point to any tangible successes. In short, Windows 8 has not yet made any real impression on the tablet scene.

Are you referring to Microsoft’s “Surface” tablet?

Windows 8 is an operating system that is designed to play out its strengths in the mobile sphere. The catchwords here are “apps” and “touch operation”. Microsoft has probably opted not to make its own Surface tablet available to a wider market yet out of consideration for its own hardware partners. Besides, the device is at the very top end of the price range. For their part, Microsoft’s hardware partners are not exactly clamoring to bring Windows 8-compatible products to the market either. And the choice of business apps is limited too.

What are the strengths of Windows 8? What advantages does it have over Windows 7?

Windows 8 is fundamentally easier to operate; the user interface is more intuitive. So Microsoft is in synch with the trend in that respect. The reality is that operating systems are increasingly taking a back seat. The focus now is on functionality and the “experience” that a device promises to deliver. Touch optimization is a very promising development here. And traditional Microsoft customers will be satisfied too: All programs that ran on Windows 7 run glitch-free on Windows 8. So it just remains for more Windows 8 tablets to become available…

Next page: “New way of working” with Windows 8?

What is the level of demand among corporate customers?

We’ve found that demand for Windows 8 in larger companies with more than 500 employees is stronger than among small and midsize businesses. Users in the enterprise environment have no trouble coming to grips with the new system – not least because they can continue using software interfaces that are familiar to them.

But that’s surely not the whole story? What about the “new way of working” that Microsoft is promising?

We’re entering an exciting field here. When it comes to business IT, German companies in particular are facing both a major challenge and a major opportunity – neither of which relates purely to Windows 8. You have to remember that other vendors’ systems and solutions offer a new way of working too. So the question is more to do with how companies respond to the challenges and opportunities that are opening up to them. Microsoft will – simply by virtue of its large market share – contribute to making the new way of working a reality on a broad basis. But this will take time.

What challenges do companies face?

The workplace is changing and will look very different in the future. “Information workers” can already work in a much more connected and productive way than ever before, such as when they collaborate with colleagues and business partners – I’m referring here to the concept of “social business” – or when they switch effortlessly between mobile and desktop devices in home-office working models. Field employees now operate in a completely new dimension too: They no longer have to struggle with device-specific content and they can access documents and data from an integrated system wherever they happen to be. But the devices and applications they need are merely the building blocks. More important is that companies create new paradigms and organizational structures.

Are German companies finding it particularly hard to adapt?

Yes, I think so. German companies tend to have fairly rigid hierarchies. In many cases, employees’ pay is still closely linked to the factor of time – and less to flexible factors such as results, quality, and customer satisfaction. In the USA and Scandinavia, for example, the momentum is stronger. But as competition stiffens, departments and entire companies in Germany will be forced to reorganize. As I said, the changing IT landscape is a key driver in this development.

Next page: Who are the players in the future workplace?

Which players do you see as the market leaders?

IBM is playing a key role: The social business solutions in “IBM Connections” and attractive solutions for system management, business analytics, availability, and security have already prompted many corporations to rethink the way they do business. SAP is also a major driver: Its developments in social business alone are giving companies new opportunities in terms of searching for and finding data and information.

What about Microsoft?

Once the corresponding Windows 8 form factors hit the mainstream market, it will be Microsoft that makes the decisive contribution to taking these developments to a wider audience.

When will that happen?

I’m very excited by the announcements that Microsoft and its OEM and hardware partners are making about the products that will hit the market in the coming months. But it will be another two or three years before the whole “new” Microsoft world has progressed far enough for it to become established in companies as a functioning ecosystem – from the touch function to a wide range of business apps that are available from partners in the appropriate depth.

About Axel Oppermann:

Axel Oppermann has worked in IT/telecommunications consulting since 2000.  His main areas of interest are the analysis and assessment of strategic implementations of ICT-based products and services in companies. His research topics are (enterprise) applications, software license management, license strategies, and service concepts.