Waiting for 8: Why waiting for Windows 8 doesn't make sense

Last week I read an article on Ars that suggested that companies might be considering keeping Windows XP until Windows 8 comes out. For the record, the article is dismissive of the idea, and I have to say, I am too.

Last week I read an article on Ars that suggested that companies might be considering keeping Windows XP until Windows 8 comes out. For the record, the article is dismissive of the idea, and I have to say, I am too. The main reason for me is that Windows 8 is still a ways off. Even though some sites are saying it's entered the "home stretch," keep in mind the release date is scheduled in 2012, and given the fact that the only installable version available now is pre-beta, you can bet on later 2012 than earlier.

See the problem there? April 8, 2014 is the date that Windows XP will be discontinued forever. I'm sure people will use it as long as the activation servers respond, but the vast majority of the world will have needed to move on by then. If it's taken them this long to decide on Windows 7 (which is two years and one service pack old now), I hardly believe that 18 months is a long enough time to overhaul systems and commit to Windows 8, even if it isn't as fundamental an upgrade as XP-to-7 is.

But what if the reason organizations are holding off has little to do with Windows at all? It wouldn't surprise me one bit to learn that companies are sitting still in spite of a mature Windows 7 and a one-year wait for Windows 8 because they're waiting to see how the cloud landscape shapes up. We all know there's enough buzz! VMware has all but stricken Windows from their future plans, and there is an ever-increasing gap between the Window and Window-less groups. 

That's not to say there aren't huge Windows proponents out there that will continue developing for it and doing great things for as long as they can. Let's face it, though...for that group to remain relevant, Microsoft has to hit a home run with Windows 8. If they pull a Star Trek movie-esque sequence where every other release sucks, Windows, Windows apps, and traditional PCs could suffer a serious blow.

So where does Microsoft need to get it right? All signs point to Microsoft expanding their embrace of the cloud, mobile devices, and desktop virtualization. Windows 8's Start Menu really does look like it will be nice on a tablet, but will it be accepted as a desktop computer interface? What about in the corporate world, where a major change requires retraining and lots of user complaints? The desktop is still there, although the default interface I've seen so far is the tile-based Start menu. Remember when Microsoft switched Office to ribbons? It was a wholesale replacement with no option to revert to the old way. How long did it take some companies to switch from Office 2003 because of the retraining and awkwardness involved? Imagine that awkwardness for accessing all of your applications? I'm holding out hope that Microsoft keeps the Windows 7-style start menu as an option, at least in the business versions of Windows 8.

Hyper-V components will be included, reportedly, which I think is a good thing if implemented in a way that gives third-party ISVs the ability to use the hell out of it. It's so promising that I can see organizations waiting for it just to see what happens, but if Windows 8 is still a year away, we have to be at least 18 months away from a really compelling product that takes advantage of it.

So should organizations "wait for 8?" No matter what you're waiting for, I think it's foolish to wait for something that doesn't even have a firm release date. Upgrade to 7, if for no other reason than because you simply have to do it. You're going to have to upgrade Windows at least one more time before evaluating a complete shift in the way you access applications, even with some of the "bridge technologies" that are coming out like VMware Horizon and Citrix Cloud Gateway. Plus, if you wait for Windows 8 and Microsoft misses, Win 8 SP1 could be too late to make it right. In that case, desktop virtualization or not, you'll be left with an emergency upgrade from XP, rather than a controlled rollout.

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All good arguments Gabe but you didn't mention one of the most important ones: third party support of Windows XP.I would not bet on software vendors supporting Windows XP untl 2014. They would be supporting al least three versions at the same time. Most of them will for that reason stop supporting Windows XP way before 2014.


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Totally agree Gabe. Windows 7 all the way for the sensible, at best some small use cases for Windows 8 on perhaps an enterprise tablet build etc while trying new types of applications. More importantly I think what you said here is more important


"you're going to have to upgrade Windows at least one more time before evaluating a complete shift in the way you access applications"


The shift in the future IMO will be more about apps, although the desktop will still be very important and is NOT GOING AWAY and therefore can't be just ignored because two vendors in the space say so. As I think about this shift, systems management as performed today is the biggest gap that would make this shift and the consumption of various models to be performed efficiently. Without this thinking upfront now you will end up with just a mess. Not enough   thought is being put into systems management in the real world that is becoming more complex, too much conversation IMHO on point solutions that don't go far enough to embrace a holistic change. AKA AppBlaster is a waste of time that will not be used by anybody for years outside of toy use cases that blogger will go gag over and then wonder why nobody actually uses it and then realize it's all about management and Windows apps in the enterprise for a long long time to come.  Octopus assumes I want to also marry VMware and EMC to storage, Mobile Hypervisors are even more nascent than Client hypervisors and the use case is beyond security is questionable.


Also I think VMware by ignoring Windows is following the exact same path as their VDI only strategy, failure. They are simply not going to matter in an enterprise setting with such anti Windows sentiment. If they want to build credibility and get traction in the "end user" space they have to do something in Windows that is useful so they can transition those people over time to a new world which is full of uncertainly. That something is around systems management or what ever label you want to give it for Windows. The Windows is evil religion at VMware is holding it back from effectively competing and realizing some of their vision that could evolve to do some useful things in the LONG term. Reality is the enterprise is moving to Windows 7, that's where most people will stay for a long long time. So get real and do something in the real world and balance with dreams that are no going to happen. If that simple truth is not understood by VMware, the truth that the enterprise space is Windows and that they have no choice but to embrace it in a meaningful way, then they can take all their vision and stick it your know where, it's just not real and nobody should be surprised when they get tiny amount of traction and revenue. No sales person I have ever met at a software company in their right mind is going to try to make living of software that has no relevance in the REAL WORLD.


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I also am of the opinion that providiing a familiar and flexible desktop that has legacy app support is going to be key to wider VDI adoption. App streaming and desktopless applications are great in many bluesky use cases, but there are god knows how many businesses out there for whom that lack of reliable, predicatble legacy compatibility is an issue.


Plus, users (even task workers) expect a well integrated desktop toolset!


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I totally agree on the fact that the "wait for vNext" concept is a bad idea.


However, from an enterprise point of view, I also understand that companies are now getting lost by product (including OSes) releases getting closer and closer.


Migrating an OS is still far away from being an easy task and for large enterprises it takes time and lots of efforts(including budget) to achieve successfully such a migration.


Also for lots of enterprises, the question is not only to migrate to Windows 7 but to a more flexible desktop model.


Then considering all these points I can understand how an enterprise can be lost when starting a big "Windows 7" migration project (or being thinking about it) and having Windows 8 dev edition released and Microsoft representatives already talking about it and how it'll change everything ...)


Such projects are still usually done for 3 to 5 years cycles and with let's say a new major release every year it's now really hard to make a choice on which release to select, and not only on the Microsoft side (another example could be XenApp with a 6.0 release replaced one year after by a brand new 6.5 ...)


When talking about core infrastructure products vendors should remind that even if the marketing is pushing for yearly new releases when companies are selecting them it's not for a one year only deployment.


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Just after posting my previous comment I was thinking about some examples (although non really IT related) that could make sense understanding enterprises point of view :


- Would you buy a brand new car if you know that the new model is coming to the market really shortly ?


- Same question for a brand new TV ?


Well in my case the answer would be maybe for a really good price, although I'd wait for the new release to be available.


Why ? Just because for me it's an investment I won't be able to do every year.


Then when talking about large enterprises, it takes one year to prepare a project and at least one year to deploy it so imagine how it could be difficult to handle such a project with a new released considered as not the "vNext" one as soon as you've started to execute ...


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