In my previous blog on Windows 8, I discussed the gap between IT decision-maker interest in migrating to Windows 8 and employee interest particularly with touchscreen tablet devices. Employee interest was even higher than I expected prerelease, which means that Windows 8 will likely become a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) force for many organizations, but the high number of undecided respondents suggests that the next 12 months will be critical. Note that the survey was taken before the public Windows 8 release, so I don't yet know how interest will change with more people using it hands-on. I'll share my personal experiences with it in a future blog post. With that in mind, below are seven factors that put adoption at risk through the first 12 months after release.

IT decision-maker interest is affected by the following:
  1. Most IT shops are still in the midst of their Windows XP to 7 migration. Clients report that migrating to Windows 7 is an expensive process, with application migration and modernization, the OS upgrade process, and the associated labor and costs. 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 life cycle 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.
  2. Windows 8 makes strides in security and manageability, but Windows 7 is good enough for most. The new security features in Windows 8 are potent, and include Trusted Boot, Dynamic Access Control, and improvements to BitLocker, to name three. As good as these features are, we don't think they will be enough to create a tipping point for IT adoption. Further, because Windows 8 shares many core underpinnings with Windows 7, its management needs, such as patching, software license compliance, and policy management, are similar, so there are minimal management benefits.
  3. The new Windows interface is a major change that carries added support risk for I&O. In Forrester's Workforce Technology Assessments, we often find large groups of employees (50% or more) whose role in the organization and thoughts toward technology could be characterized by the statements: "Keep it simple. While I live in these tools, they're just a way to get the job done"; or "I use computers as part of my job, but I don't use them much at home." 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.
BYOD business consumer demand will be affected by:
  1. Confusion between Windows RT and Windows 8. Windows RT is a version of Windows specifically engineered to work on ARM processor architectures, which means that applications will need to be either rewritten or recompiled to work. However, because Windows RT and Windows 8 are virtually indistinguishable from each other visually (both have the new start screen and a traditional desktop), it may not be obvious to buyers that some of their apps aren't compatible with Windows RT until they try to install them.
  2. Limited initial availability of apps in the Windows App Store. With 275,000 apps in the Apple App Store for iOS, currently just short of 10,000 in the Windows 8 App Store, and less than 4,000 available for Windows RT, many of the most popular iOS or Android apps are not yet available for Windows. This will temper consumer and BYOD demand for Windows tablets until the Microsoft developer ecosystem can catch up. My colleague Frank Gillett proposes that this will take at least one year, or longer. On the other hand, the availability of Microsoft Office with touch-enabled features should be a major draw for customers.
  3. Comparatively high Windows 8 resource requirements for tablets. Windows 8 is, of course, a complete desktop OS, with greater resource requirements than competing tablet-specific operating systems. For many, the ability to use a Windows 8 device as both a tablet and a PC will be appealing, but at the same time, Intel Core i5- or i7-based Windows 8 tablet hardware doesn't currently match the iPad or the Samsung GalaxyTab in battery life. It also typically requires a fan, which could impact usability. Windows RT is designed to run on low-power ARM chips with fewer resource requirements, but as mentioned above, it's not directly compatible with Windows 8 apps.
  4. Fragmented OEM hardware ecosystem. The wide range of hardware available could serve as more of a hindrance than a help. Enterprises buy PC hardware with their top priority on price and reliability, while consumers buy based on price and features. This price sensitivity could make it difficult for tablet PC vendors to differentiate with unique products built up to a standard instead of down to a price. Buyers are also facing a potentially confusing array of devices that includes Windows 8 and Windows RT-ready hardware.
Firms should continue to accelerate their Windows 7 migration efforts but get ready for short-term employee demand. Adoption of employee-owned Windows 8 devices should follow the guidance in Forrester's "Five Steps To A Successful BYOC Program" research.