Since the original release of Windows 8 on October 26, 2012, the operating system has benefitted from two major updates — Windows 8.1 (in October, 2013) and the Update to Windows 8.1 (in April, 2014). With these updates, Microsoft sought to address a variety of user concerns and feedback, including some major revisions to the user interface. In the latest update, Microsoft has introduced some useful new features like the ability to right-click from the Start Screen:

We've just released a new report assessing the status of the Update to Windows 8.1 and what it means for enterprises. Whoa — hold on, you might say: Isn't Windows 7 the enterprise standard now? Does Windows 8.1 matter to the enterprise at all?

Indeed, Windows 7 remains the enterprise standard; most enterprises have only recently weaned themselves fully off of XP. But Windows 8.1 does matter in the enterprise, for several reasons:

  • Infrastructure buyers are interested in Windows 8.1 devices. In more than 50 recent inquiries with Forrester, clients asked about laptop replacement scenarios for Windows 8 devices. I&O pros tell Forrester that they like the idea of deploying replacement devices that are two-in-one laptop replacements — that is, devices used both for mobile tablet scenarios and then back at the desk with a mouse and a keyboard. 2-in-1 can conceivably save them money; rather than buying a laptop and a tablet, they like the idea of providing one device that can fill both purposes. They also cite manageability, the ability to domain-join the devices, legacy application compatibility, and other reasons for their interest.
  • The Windows ecosystem is providing a great number of form factors suited to different business needs. Business leaders and I&O pros both cite the wide array of choices for device types based on Windows 8.1 as another driver of interest. From the Dell Venue Pro 8 at 8" all the way up to Microsoft's 82" Perceptive Pixel device (and everything in between), it's possible to equip workers with devices that fit a wide array of business scenarios.
  • Workers are interested in tablets with keyboards. Sixty-two percent of information workers indicate that they would like to use a keyboard (either wireless or docked) with their tablet, mimicking the two-in-one concept. As we recently covered in our Quick Take Report on Microsoft's Surface Pro 3, the Windows 8.1 ecosystem offers credible, business-class options for this scenario.

In most cases, enterprises with an interest in Windows 8.1 devices are running hybrid environments — adding Windows 8.1 tablets (for example) into a largely Windows 7 environment. This is best accomplished using System Center 2012 R2; prior editions don't offer full deployment capabilities, making them onerous for I&O personnel to manage.

In the report, I offer an overall assessment of where Windows 8.1 stands today and whether you and your organization should be considering adopting some of these devices. I find that, overall, Windows 8.1 with its recent update makes the best case yet for enterprise adoption.  I invite you to read and download the full report here.

J. P. Gownder is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research serving Infrastructure & Operations Professionals. Follow him on Twitter at @jgownder