A host of top Microsoft partners have praised the innovations in Windows 8, but the hardware channel has been warned not to bank on the OS kick-starting a wide-scale enterprise PC refresh.
The latest release of the Windows platform, its 13th major iteration, is surely one of its most significant. For the first time in more than two decades, Microsoft appears to be under pressure, and Windows 8 bears the hallmarks of a company trying to regain mind share – and wallet share – from Apple, particularly in the consumer mobility space.
Chris Lim, Microsoft practice manager at Large Account Reseller (LAR) partner Trustmarque, saluted the progress Windows 8 has made in reacting to consumerisation and mobility trends. But he insisted that there is also plenty for businesses to get excited about.
“I am not so sure that it will fundamentally change the way we look at the desktop, and I do not think it is going to drive a massive enterprise refresh programme,” he said.
“What it will drive is the adoption of a number of devices in terms of mobiles and slate. The challenge will be how businesses marry an enterprise Windows 7 desktop with slates [and other devices].
“But I think it is definitely an enterprise-level desktop. Will customers come to us to talk about Windows 8? They will come to talk about desktop strategy. We are involved in one of our largest ever proof of concepts for Windows 8, including 50 slate devices. All the people we are talking to are businesspeople, not IT people.”
A refreshing perspective In a recent interview with CRN, Computacenter UK managing director Neil Muller claimed the traditional enterprise PC market remains a fertile hunting ground for the VAR and services giant.
“There has been a lack of compelling events for companies to upgrade their desktop environment. But is has got to the stage where you can only sweat the assets for so long,” he explained. “People have been looking for a reason. Windows 7, along with Office 2010, offered some of that, and Windows 8 offers even more.”
Taisha Betz, Microsoft business unit manager at distributor Avnet Technology Solutions UK, agreed the new OS could prompt some PC refresh activity, particularly in the mid-market and education space.
“Windows 8 has created a stir in the market, and we are seeing medium-sized enterprises, in particular, moving forward with a Windows desktop refresh, usually from Windows XP,” she said.
“Avnet has seen a significant increase in its sales of Windows desktop licences, with especially strong demand in the academic market.” But some remain unconvinced that Windows 8 will give the desktop market the shot in the arm the client hardware vendors all hope it will.
Angela Eager, research director at TechMarketView, wrote in the analyst’s UKHotViews newsletter that the short-term outlook for the new OS is decidedly uncertain. “Early sentiment that Windows 8 on the desktop gives a poor experience bodes ill for the legacy upgrade sector of the market,” she says.
“Consider that in conjunction with sales to businesses being tied to PC refresh cycles, and potentially delayed by concerns about costs related to training and productivity declines as users adjust to the interface, and the immediate prospects in the enterprise sector are far from bright.
Dave Simpson, commercial director of LAR Softcat, said that “corporate customers do not buy operating systems straight away, and they never have done”. “A lot of customers with annuity-based licensing agreements will have the right to use it anyway,” he added.
“People will be trying it and seeing how they can fit it into their organisations.” But Simpson was another to praise some of the moves taken by Microsoft to hit back at the latter-day successes of Apple. “This is the coming together of Microsoft’s mobile platform with tablets and new desktop devices; it is probably the biggest shift in an operating system since Windows 95,” he said.
“In terms of joining everything up from consumer to business and trying to claw back some of the ground they have lost, it is a massive release.” Rich Gibbons, software manager at LAR Bechtle, is a big fan of Windows 8. But, like most people we spoke to, he believes businesses may initially adopt a hybrid approach towards their licensing estate.
“Many customers are going to stick with Windows 7 on the desktop and go with Windows 8 for mobility and slates, and introduce it that way, then start to bring it into the desktop with a more staggered approach,” he explained.
All aboard the Westcoast bus
Honestly, you wait all evening for Windows 8 and then a bus comes along as well.
As reported on ChannelWeb, tech heads queued for hours on Tottenham Court Road last month to become the first to get their mitts on the snazzy new OS.
Currys and PC World snared the rights to sell Windows 8 machines first in the UK, offering deals on four Windows 8 HP laptops and giving away free pairs of headphones.
Not content with offering just the OS to its eager fans, the retailer fed them doughnuts, sausage rolls and hot drinks, and entertained them with US magician Daniel White.
Quite a departure from the usual Windows launches, which normally see geeky IT journalists (CRNers not included) get all sweaty and excited as they lock themselves in a darkened room to road-test the system and then debate the pros and cons of the software in forums across the globe.
And to heighten the excitement, Westcoast has launched its very own Windows 8 bus (pictured) – encouraging resellers to “get on board” with a tour of the UK.
The Theale-based distributor is hoping to get 1,000 channel peeps trained up on all things Windows 8 by Christmas, with 92 resellers already booking a half-day on board. Inside the bus are examples of the latest Windows 8-enabled devices from HP, Samsung and Toshiba, together with a full training suite.
Resellers can even bring their end users and get trained on any of 10 modules on offer which vary in length from 45 to 90 minutes.
Alex Tatham, sales and marketing director at Westcoast, said: “This training is totally free for resellers and has proved so popular that we can no longer take bookings. We had no idea there would be Skyfall-esque demand for this initiative. It is testament to the enthusiasm with which Microsoft’s new OS is being received. Let’s just hope the snow holds off until Christmas.
“Wait until Office comes out next year – we’ll have to hire Air Force One,” he quipped.