Windows 8 fails to make a splash with target audiences

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Technology.Info surveys some of the early reactions to Microsoft’s recently launched operating system and assesses its prospects for corporate adoption.

Last week, Emirates Airlines announced plans to roll out 1,000 Windows 8 tablets, running its own bespoke Windows 8 app for cabin crew, a decision that will make it an early big-name reference customer for the recently launched operating system (OS).

That’s good news for Microsoft, after the rather muted public reception that Windows 8 has received and the shock departure of Windows boss Steven Sinofsky in mid-November.

But elsewhere, the bad news just keeps on coming. Take, for example, Microsoft’s consumer audience: in a survey of 350,000 customers of antivirus specialist Avast Software, taken on the day before Window 8’s release, users expressed no great impatience to upgrade to the new OS. Almost eight out of ten (78 percent) said that they had no intention of purchasing a new computer sooner just to have Windows 8.

In fact, among those respondents who do intend to buy a new computer soon, more than one-quarter (28 percent) said they do not plan to buy a Windows device at all, instead intending to invest in an iPad tablet (21 percent) or a Mac laptop or desktop computer (7 percent).

That’s consumers, of course, but what about businesses? Reports from IT pros and their advisors are not very encouraging, either. At Forrester Research, for example, analyst David Johnson has warned that the new Windows interface is a major change that carrier added support risk for IT teams. Employees that prefer to get work done with simple, familiar tools, he says, are likely to be thrown out of kilter. “Forrester believes that these employees will mostly find Windows 7 adequate for their needs, and the loss of familiar attributes like the start button for navigation, or the potential for confusion between apps running on the legacy Windows desktop and those running in the new Windows 8 interface, will cause disorientation and frustration, requiring additional training and support,” he writes in a recent

blog

on the subject.

Potential problems with the interface is an issue that world-renowned usability expert Jakob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman Group highlights in a damning report into how he studied 12 experienced PC users, interacting with Windows 8, and came to the following

conclusion

:

“Windows 8 on mobile devices and tablets is akin to Dr Jekyll: a tortured soul hoping for redemption. On a regular PC, Windows 8 is Mr Hyde: a monster that terrorises poor office workers and strangles their productivity.”

“I don’t hate Microsoft,” Nielsen insists, stressing that he switched from Macs to Windows PCs many years ago and was “very pleased” with Windows 7. “I have great hopes for Windows 9 on mobile and tablets. Just as Windows 7 was ‘Vista Done Right’, it’s quite likely that the touchscreen version of Windows 9 will be ‘Windows 8 Done Right.”

But for PC users, he doesn’t hold out a lot of hope - particularly for knowledge workers doing productivity tasks in an office. “This used to be Microsoft’s core audience and it has now thrown the old customer base under the bus, by designing an operating system that removes a powerful PC’s benefits in order to work better on smaller devices,” he says.

Still, amid all this doom and gloom, corporate IT managers can look on the bright side: they may not need to make a decision either way for some time yet. As Johnson of Forrester Research points out, many are still in the process of migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7.

“With only 4% of firms having a plan to migrate to Windows 8 in the next 12 months, the majority of new corporate PCs currently being deployed with Windows 7, a three- to five-year lifecycle on PC hardware, and the end of Windows XP support coming in April 2014, Forrester believes few firms will be anxious to make another major investment in desktop OS migration,” he concludes.

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