Mumbai: Microsoft Corp. is banking on the launch of Windows 8, its latest operating system or OS, to boost its revenue in a world where the growth of tablet devices--most of them with Apple Inc.’s iOS or Google Inc.’s Android--is outpacing that of desktop-based PCs where it has a monopoly.

Microsoft, however, has introduced the new OS at a time when technology spends of consumers and enterprises have dipped following the global economic slowdown. Besides, its earlier versions--Windows XP and Windows 7--remain very popular and enteprises typically wait for revised versions (known as service packs) to ensure stability of their applications, say analysts.

Windows 8 was made available officially on 25 October but select enterprises in India have downloaded 16 million copies (for testing) of the OS since September 2011, according to Sanket Akerkar, managing director of Microsoft Corp. India Pvt. Ltd.

On the consumer front in India, more than 250 Windows 8-enabled devices have been made available across 100 cities and more than 2,500 stores, Akerkar said.

Windows 8 sports a new UI (user interface) that uses large tiles and maintains the same look across devices besides a range of apps that can be downloaded from the Windows Store.

Analysts say the new OS may excite individual users with touch capabilities, new features and a fresh interface. Besides, Microsoft typically bundles the OS with PCs.

A majority of consumer desktop-based personal computers (PCs) the world over have different versions of Microsoft Inc.’s Windows operating system (OS) on them, note analysts. The case in India is no different, pirated or otherwise, with hardly 5% of consumer desktop PCs running Linux OS variants (or even Macs from Apple).

But such is not the case with enterprises, since most of them use Windows XP (almost 10 years old) and Windows 7.

“Windows 8 is a game changer. It’s an evolved OS and likely to be successful with tablets and related form factors. But its biggest competitor is Windows XP and Windows 7 which are stable OSes. Hence, Windows 8 won’t be flying off the shelves. Enterprises may have to wait for a year before the first service pack is released and the economy recovers a bit," said Sumanta Mukherjee, lead analyst for computing devices at CyberMedia Research (CMR).

Gartner Inc. has a similar view. A day after the official launch of Windows 8, the researcher released a report saying “through 2015, 90% of enterprises will bypass broad-scale deployment of Windows 8".

Vishal Tripathi, principal analyst at Gartner, explained enterprises typically need at least a year to test applications before a full rollout of any new OS. “Companies currently are fatigued with Windows 7," he said.

Analysts from IDC India think no differently.

“Windows 8 is primarily a consumer OS but many entereprises still use Windows XP. They will have to migrate all their applications to the new OS. Transition will be harder for them. Enterprises will want to wait for more stability before proceeding," said analysts Kanwar Rahul, manager (channels research), and Kiran Kumar, senior market analyst (PCs) with IDC.

Nevertheless, N. Jayantha, chief technology officer (CTO) of the Essar group, has become one of the early adopters of Windows 8. “We started testing Windows 8 two months back on 50 touch- and non-touch devices. The experience has been good so far," he said.

A full rollout, qualified Jayantha, “will be subject to the ecosystem maturing--anti-virus solutions, etc." The Essar group was among the first enterprises to allow its employees to bring their own devices (the so-called BYOD trend). “Windows 8 is well-suited to BYOD," said Jayantha.

Windows 8 is a make-or-break product for Microsoft. Consider this: Gartner predicts that by 2013 mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common web access device globally and that by 2015 more than 80% of the handsets sold in mature markets will be smartphones, of which only 20% are likely to be Windows phones.

Moreover, by 2015, media tablet shipments will reach around 50% of laptop shipments and Windows 8 will likely be in third place behind Google’s Android and Apple iOS operating systems.

“Windows 8 is Microsoft’s big bet and Windows 8 platform styles should be evaluated to get a better idea of how they might perform in real-world environments as well as how users will respond. Consumerization will mean enterprises won’t be able to force users to give up their iPads or prevent the use of Windows 8 to the extent consumers adopt consumer targeted Windows 8 devices," said the 23 October Gartner release.

The statement concluded, “The implications for IT (information technology) is that the era of PC dominance with Windows as the single platform will be replaced with a post-PC era where Windows is just one of a variety of environments IT will need to support."

From a hardware ecosystem point of view, Windows 8 PCs and tablets are available in India from 14 hardware partners--from tablets and hybrids (that work both as tablets and notebooks) to laptops and ultrabooks, on both touch and non-touch devices.

Touch devices have been priced roughly 50% more than non-touch devices.

“Whether you want a tablet or a PC, whether you want to consume or create--Windows 8 delivers a personalized experience," said Akerkar.

The new OS is available in two retail versions--Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro. It is cloud-connected (cloud is a metaphor for Internet technologies) and users can sign into their Microsoft account to sync their mail, calendars, contact, pictures, etc. across multiple devices. The OS comes with Internet Explorer 10 that is touch-ready.

Consumers can also upgrade their existing PCs till 31 January 2013. Those running PCs with Windows XP (which will officially be discontinued in 2014 and is not compatible with Windows 8), Windows Vista (which flopped) or Windows 7 (considered a stable OS by many but which is compatible with Windows 8), can download Windows 8 Pro for Rs1,999.

Windows 7 PCs purchased between 2 June 2012 and 31 January 2013 can download Windows 8 Pro for Rs699, according to a company press statement.

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