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IDC: Microsoft's Mobile, Tablet Strategy Will Hurt Windows 8 in 2012

Analyst firm IDC forecasts a less-than-stellar showing for Microsoft's forthcoming Windows 8 operating system, expected to be rolled out in 2012.

IDC shared its somewhat pessimistic view of Windows 8's prospects in its "Top 10 Predictions" report published this month. The report also includes predictions about other IT trends, including cloud computing, the consumerization of IT and the prospects for infrastructure heterogeneity.

The firm's critique of Windows 8 appears to hinge on Microsoft's tablet strategy. The report also downplayed the prospects for PC upgrades from Windows 7.

"Windows 8 will be largely irrelevant to the users of traditional PCs, and we expect effectively no upgrade activity from Windows 7 to Windows 8 in that form factor," the report states.

Microsoft's Windows 8 tablet strategy could falter if it fails to move its developer community; such failures have been evident with past Windows releases, the report noted. The authors also suggested possible problems with Microsoft's current mobile strategy.

"IDC believes that Microsoft's success with Windows 8 on tablets will be disappointing during 2012, and if it does not change some of its philosophy in how it is approaching the mobile market, it will not be successful longer term," according to the report.

Currently, Windows 8 is available as a pre-beta "developer preview." However, some reports suggest it could be out in beta form in late January or late February. IDC expects Windows 8 to see the light of day as a product as early as the second quarter of 2012, but no later than August.

Al Gillen, IDC's program vice president for system software, said that the report uses a constructed Windows 8 production timeline, based on vendor comments. Microsoft hasn't publicly disclosed its Windows 8 release plans as yet.

"We've heard comments from various vendors saying that they are promising to have a Windows 8-based device out in the second or third quarter of 2012," Gillen said in a telephone interview. "So that kind of feedback seems to correlate with what my interpretation of what the timeline needs to be. At this moment, I have no reason to believe that it would go a lot longer than that, but I have no official confirmation from Microsoft either."

Microsoft is planning Windows 8 for x86 and ARM hardware for both PCs and tablets. However, the report pointed to success with Windows 8 on ARM as being most important for addressing Apple's competing mobile products. IDC isn't the only analyst firm offering sharp thoughts about Microsoft's consumer tablet strategy; Forrester Research has weighed in, too.

Gillen sees Windows 8 on ARM as more of a pure tablet play.

"All along, the expectation has been that ARM-based devices would be largely tablet-oriented and not necessarily PC-oriented in the way that Windows 8 on the x86 environment is going to be," Gillen said.

Other Predictions
IDC's report was bullish on Windows Server 8's prospects. When used in combination with Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization technology, Windows Server 8 will improve private cloud deployment prospects, the report predicts.

The report sees 2012 as a good year for the deployment of private clouds, and Gillen explained why.

"The fact is that private cloud is considered a good halfway point between virtualized infrastructure and a public cloud, and a lot of organizations are not ready to go to public cloud," he said.

IDC's report, "Worldwide System Infrastructure Software 2012: Top 10 Predictions," can be accessed at IDC's site here.

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About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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