Could Windows 8 Destroy Microsoft’s Hold on the Enterprise Market?

Microsoft has a firm grip on the world of small business and enterprise computing. Workstations at offices both small and large are typically filled with workstations pre-loaded with one version of Windows or another. While not everyone uses Windows at home, the business world depends on a level of consistency to keep everything running smoothly, especially when it comes to IT systems.

With Microsoft taking a step in the mobile direction with Windows 8, the question remains as to whether or not this operating system will be a hit or a miss in the business world. Could Microsoft actually lose ground in its biggest market?

Apple is Already Making Gains

Business Insider has reported that Apple stands to make between $9-10 billion in enterprise sales of its Mac computers in 2012. While this may not be a massive boatload for the industry leader, it represents significant gains in a market that Microsoft has all but dominated for the past twenty years.

Add to that the fact that iPads hold 96% of the enterprise tablet market while iPhones continue to climb and currently hold a 53% majority. That’s over $10 billion in iPad sales alone, making Apple a serious contender in the business world where it was hardly a blip on the radar only a few years ago.

Training Costs Money

First, learning curves for employees to understand corporate systems is a costly problem. Training costs money, and having to train each new employee on how to use an operating system that is dramatically different from the one most of the workforce is used to will be a hard pill for small businesses and enterprises to swallow.

One of the biggest advantages Microsoft has in the business world is that it’s familiar to most users. Almost everyone who works with or around computers has used Windows at one time or another, and is familiar with the way it operates. Windows 8, on the other hand, is quite different.

Chris Pirillo’s father, Joe Pirillo, uses business applications on a daily basis as part of his work as a CPA. He’s been around computers for decades, and is an avid fan of Windows XP. Unfortunately, when he was tasked with performing simple navigation steps in Windows 8, he was faced with a number of changes that made this difficult.

Businesses don’t have time or money to spend teaching employees how to use an operating system. If you train a crew of 15 people on how to navigate Windows 8 for even a few hours, you’re looking at the cost of paying the employees for that time, loss of productivity as they are pulled from their assignments, and the costs involved with creating the training environment for them to learn in without potentially harming important business systems. Add to this potential follow-up training and other needs, and the costs could go well into the thousands, or tens of thousands. Now think about the costs involved with doing this for a thousand employees.

Microsoft Can’t Afford Another Vista

Chris Pirillo, the founder of LockerGnome and a leading consumer experience advocate, has detailed his opinion of what would happen if Microsoft doesn’t hit a home run with Windows 8. This opinion comes with the consumer market largely in mind, though the enterprise market will undoubtedly follow suit — for several reasons.

I remember speaking to the IT manager of a municipal utility company and asking why systems were still running Windows 2000, even though Windows Vista had shipped. He explained to me that the reason behind it was that so many internal systems depended on consistency and compatibility with outdated software that an upgrade would cost millions, even in a relatively small branch. While that company later adopted Windows XP, it is unlikely that it would have done so if support had continued for Windows 2000.

Microsoft Windows Vista had a reputation (rightfully so) of being unstable and incompatible with legacy hardware and software. This was due, in part, to the many changes that had been made on the back end to support newer technologies. It’s hard to look at Windows 8 with its dramatically different interface and new app structure and not see a similar mountain in front of users. If not like Windows Vista, perhaps even worse.

With OS X becoming a larger player in the high-end consumer market, and having a reputation of being consistent, even in the face of significant upgrades, it would be hard to imagine IT departments around the world aren’t at least considering making the switch. Undoubtedly, enterprise software manufacturers are beginning to see the writing on the wall, as well.

No Clear Signs of How Businesses Will Take Advantage of Metro

Aside from the tablet and smartphone market, there doesn’t appear to be a lot of appeal to using Metro within the corporate world.

For one, business software developers would need to refashion their flagship products to meet this new standard if they wish to participate in the Metro experience. Should Microsoft consider phasing out the legacy Aero desktop and its supported software in upcoming releases, it could mean massive changes in how this software looks and operates.

This doesn’t even take into account the costs involved with upgrading IT infrastructure to support the new operating system. Programs that do take advantage of Metro require a lot more than a simple update to do so, meaning that the costs would be passed on to businesses. Would you pay $800 a pop for a program that does the same thing as the one that already works on your existing operating system?

Putting the consumer market aside for a moment, the standard Aero desktop is currently being used by office workers for multitasking, comparing data from one window to the next, and organizing large amounts of detailed information. In Metro, you have the ability to look at one thing at a time, unless you place one item in a sliver to the left or right of the main content area of the screen. This would hardly be an easy transition for employees to make, let alone software developers.

Change happens, and it’s up to each company to make the decision of whether or not to upgrade to Windows 8, stick with what they have, or switch to an alternative such as OS X. As far as things stand right now, it would appear that Apple is in a very good position.

Article Written by

Ryan Matthew Pierson has worked as a broadcaster, writer, and producer for media outlets ranging from local radio stations to internationally syndicated programs. His experience includes every aspect of media production. He has over a decade of experience in terrestrial radio, Internet multimedia, and commercial video production.

  • brianguy

    industry leader?   based on number of mp3 players out there?  stock price?  number of early adopters in the newly formed tablet segment?  number of hipsters in line for the next Pad(2.5)?

    hey, I enjoy my iPod but I also love my Android phone and no reason for most businesses, especially large and medium enterprises to make the switch to OS X in the face of Windows8.  especially when you consider remaining support lifespan (which this article didn’t really).  If Windows8 is akin to Vista, then Windows7 is akin to XP.  Which most businesses used for a very long time.  heck, many still do.

    • Matt Ryan

      You are aware that Apple is an industry leader because it is the most valuable tech company on the market today? I could go on to state that Apple has 91% of the high-end consumer PC market, in addition to being dominant in the tablet and smartphone markets. Rather than asking how it is an industry leader, it would be harder to name how it isn’t.

      • RaterKey

        It is a difficult one Matt as it isn’t a black or white type question, there’s no doubt Apple are A leader. It is an incredibly innovative company that pretty much grabs the rest of the industry by the neck and drags it into the future. We wouldn’t be where we are without Apple.

        They still don’t make the most PCs, HP does. Some people add in iPad numbers to make Apple the leading PC maker. Others disagree. What’s right? Up to you! I happen to disagree! A smartphone has more in common with an iPad than an iPad has with a MacBook Pro.

        Anyway, it isn’t important. I’m aware this wasn’t the point of the article.

      • Faisal Ali

        Matt, Consider the following. How many of Apple’s laptops are above the 1000 dollar price tag? This pushes it over the into the high end category. Apple’s base macbook pro here in Canada is 1249.99 Dollars, Personally I don’t know of any OEM which has that base price for a machine that’s fairly low spec’ed. Now I know specifications aren’t everything but considering there’s no dedicated GPU that price tag is insanely high. 

        • RaterKey

          Faisal, I think the price is OK. You aren’t paying for pure tech specs, but also for the quality of construction and feel of the machine.

          A comparable laptop would be something like the Dell XPS 13, which is also lacking on some pure tech specs but has a similar high-end build and quality feel. The base price for that is $1000 in the USA, comparable to similar Apple machines in both the Air and Pro MacBook rangers.

          I think people concentrate too much on Apple’s price and tech specs. Forgetting that not everything is pure technical specifications. When you buy a high end laptop, be it an Apple or one froam a different manufacturer you pay for how the machine feels, and that is important. A Dell Inspiron or Vostro will never match that Apple feel. But something like a Dell Precision, high-end Dell XPS, or Lenovo ThinkPad will. And all of those machines command a higher price than a budget laptop, and are priced comparable to a MacBook Pro or Air.

          • Faisal Ali

            The Dell XPS Series is a premium line of laptop and desktop computers from Dell. They are well equipped as well as come fairly sturdy with an aluminium construction. They cost about a little more than half the price of the same spec’d Macbook Pro. Arguably the construction is the same, the hardware is the same. The only difference is pricing. There is a disconnect already. How can a product that matches the same specifications of another comparable product in terms of build quality, durability, and reliable cost upwards of 400-600 dollars more? Dell’s budget machines cost around 400-500 dollars (Inspiron series).  

          • Michael Smith

            To even try to compare any Dell produced to anything produced by Apple is just plain foolish IMO. Not only are the products incredibly inferior in terms of build quality, structure and chose of internal components, but they are literally eons away from each other in terms of stability and reliability due to Microsoft’s abysmal software that has been injected like a virus into an otherwise healthy machine. I own a small business and currently have 18 PC’S running Windows operating systems. Of the 18, 10 have had to have their OS reinstalled due to catastrophic software failures. Meanwhile my wife has had a MacbookAir for the last few years and does all sorts of things that a windows user wouldn’t dare to ((downloading torrents games and so on) and it hasn’t so much as ever had one tiny issue. Could I do it all over again and go Mac, I would do so without giving it a second thought, especially given the massive amounts of money that Microsoft has cost me in just wasted time not to mention the many hard drive failures I’ve suffered and motherboard failures I have had on my Dells. The comment above is like trying to compare a KIA to a Mercedes Benz it just can’t possibly make sense no matter how hard you try to justify it. Fact is, Microsoft is still around today because of its stranglehold on Enterprise and business owners utilize their products not because we want to but because we feel we have to. And thankfully we can at least count on one thing and that is that Microsoft will continue to think that they are in disposable and will make more mistakes like Windows 8 so that competition will come in and eventually force them to get better or just get out.

      • Edwin

        Matt, your article is about the enterprise market. I can
        imagine that Apple sells iPads to businesses but that does not immediately mean
        that they are competing. Apple is currently market leader for tablets because
        it is a new market, but that does not mean that people turn in their laptops.
        In theory you could argue that watches are also electronic devices witch a
        microchip in it. That does not mean that Microsoft is competing with Seiko.
        Office people generally have all these products, they have a watch AND a
        tablet, AND a laptop.

        Another big mistake that you make is to think that Microsoft
        software is just installed on laptops. You seem to forget that Microsoft is
        also very big on server software. Can Apple deliver when I want to buy enterprise
        database clustering software? Can Apple deliver when I want to buy an enterprise
        hypervisor? Can Apple deliver when I want to buy enterprise datacenter managing
        software? There is more software in an enterprise than just the software that
        is running on your iPad.

        Microsoft is maybe late to the tablet market, but it will
        make up with Windows 8. I noticed that some people think here that you should
        keep desktop software and tablet software strictly separate and that is completely
        wrong. When I am at the office I currently use my laptop and old fashion pen
        and paper. I would love to work with a tabled, but then it should be a tablet
        that I could also use with a keyboard and mouse. A tablet is great for meetings,
        because you don’t want to hide behind a laptop screen, but it is not great for
        desktop work where you would be multitasking, a lot of typing, comparing, etc.
        Try to work on a spreadsheet with your fingers on a touch screen and you
        understand what I mean. iOS is not suited for daily computer work. There is a
        reason that they don’t install iOS on a Macbook. So in my opinion, an ideal
        computer would have an operating system that I could use for tablet work in
        meetings, and work as a desktop machine when I place the tablet in a docking
        station or attach a keyboard and mouse to it.

        I have to admit, if you use Windows 8 purely on a non touch device
        like a desktop or workstation, than the Metro interface does not really add
        functionality to the Aero interface. On the other hand, to me it is not
        hindering me either. I use Windows 8 now on my laptop and desktop since the release
        of the consumer preview and so far I did not really misses the traditional
        start menu.  It works just like I was
        used to. If I want to run a program that is not on my taskbar of desktop, which
        is seldom, then I go to the bottom left corner, click there and chose the
        program I want to run. My actions are exactly the same, it only looks different.

        Perhaps, without any explanation, somebody might get lost in
        Windows 8 when using it for the very first time. That is why Microsoft put some
        very nice instruction videos on the download. You can only miss these video’s
        if your son is using you to make a point on his website. I bet that if Joe
        Pirrelo had watched these video’s that he would never been lost. Personaly I
        think that Chris has a great father and that he should give his dad a hybrid
        Windows 8 tablet with detachable keyboard for Christmas and ask him after 2
        weeks using it with touch AND keyboard if he is still skeptic.  

  • RaterKey

    I really don’t see this happening, in your article you talk about having to retrain people to use Windows 8. Which would be the same cost as retraining people to use Mac OS X, as believe it or not, most people will still need the training.

    That cost is the same with either route.

    Now, if you switch to a different OS there is another extra cost. The cost of changing the whole enterprise solution built around Windows desktops. This is HUGE! You know how slowly the enterprise world moves even when it comes to upgrading to the next version of Windows, imagine the resistance there would be to move to OS X. It would be an absolutely insurmountable task in most large companies.

    You mention that Apple already has a little bit of a foot in enterprise. But this is around the periphery. An isolated design team, iPads, iPhones, etc… Not at its core.

  • Josh

    I can’t really see this happening either, I’m sure there’ll be a way to remove Metro as there was to remove windows media player, games and other such things.

    • Matt Ryan

      Sadly, removing Metro would mean not having a Start button unless you added a third-party one yourself. Metro replaced a very core part of the OS, and there’s no turning it off and bringing things back the way they were.

      • Chris Pirillo

        Here’s the problem with the Start button in the Windows 8 UX: you already started – on the Start screen.

        • RaterKey

          To be fair the orb only says start on hover, and I bet most users have never noticed that.

          Anyway, I don’t see much wrong with starting on the star screen. Where else would you start? And a start orb that gets you back to the start screen is fine, right? Totally intuitive.

        • Schwartz

          While that is true Chris, it seems to be a poor substitute for what we are used to, That friendly all-in-one Start button.

          • Chris Pirillo

            Yes, but in Microsoft’s eyes: the Start screen *is* the new Start menu.

  • Wolfee Darkfang

    I couldn’t possibly agree more with this article. Very well stated. Multitasking is important for workstations, and even I use it as a amateur game designer / digital artist. Having to use slivers or only see 1 thing at a time, would drive me to another OS very quickly.

  • Crgotit

    Changing Of The Guard!
    Even when, Windows 8 fails this will probably begin the transition of a more coextensive existence between MS and Mac.  Meaning more and more Mac Book Pro’s and whatever (for the record I am not a fan boy) still using Windows 7 in production.  With that being said on the back end of things for IT Professionals MS will remain the back bone.  

    MS needs to just copy whatever Mac is doing again.  If its not broke don’t Metro it!   
    And let’s not forget that if MS flag drops what will be running HP and Dell?  Andriod?? God forbid I threw up in my month.   

  • Bharat Kumar Gupta

    excellent article Matt, know what this is exactly what i felt n believed all along 2009 since the release of leopard, snow leopard n beyond…only because in my opinion its the user who simply deserve best experience, i want this X company to win because they are pouring their heart n soul in making a great product no matter which company it is.

    Windows forget about giving great software like iweb, imovie etc out of the box, it cant even offer good look n feel, we beared with them since XP, but things hav changed and it feels more like MS takes things for granted, like chris said “there are still elements of windows 95 present inside windows 7″, lol i mean seriously we cant stick with that forever.

    look at how apple treats its customers, every user deserve that, high end macs are much more suitable for high end applications vs the windows which literally crashes n burn the pc set up, i m saying this with an experience, a sore experience, now i wanna change things, change for better.

  • Bharat Kumar Gupta

    i design home in 3d, work extensively with graphics n image programs and use windows 7 set up, 6 times out of 10 my pc crashes and this really sucks, on similar set up on a mac things are much stable, a cleaner experience and joy of working without worry, yeah dude i lose lot of data when things crash, i dont want that, and who says windows is a hardcore pro environment, those people do not know or understand the term “hardcore”…the overall exp is nothing to write home about, i m not proud of this i need change, macs are now priced very decently and i would rather pay for a better hardware than adding up pc boxes all over again, thats just my experience so far since 2006

  • Bharat Kumar Gupta

    to be frank here i ser want apple to win, bec i want everyone to use great stuff, thats just me, but god willing i hope not apple doesnt let these moments pass with their ego centric attitude like they did in past, they need to ser take advantage of this moment n time. I hope they win, i want them to win.

  • johnwerneken

    Firms won’t touch Win8 until Desktop aps can run unchanged and until a lockdown install of SOME traditional desktop is facilitated. They may or may not want an option to let users or some users toggle to Metro. If they decide to get involved with mobile win8 devices, they will probably want the toggle option for the desktop users. And if mobile is a big part of their IT footprint then they will want a Metro toggle for sure. IF Metro ever gets to where it can do all Metro things with no Desktop throwbacks popping up on the Desktop PC, and run Desktop stuff with said stuff unchanged from Metro’s tiles in the Metro GUI on the Desktop PC, then maybe firms might go for Metro only, but I doubt anyone who has users who are Desktop Windows accustomed/trained would want to retrain them all, which a Metro-only choice would force.

    Those are my opinions, I am sticking to them lol.

  • Brandon Ragoo

    The post mentions Mac as an alternative but not Ubuntu or another popular Linux distro also, why not?

    • D Pantazopoulos

      Because Linux distros like Fedora 16 and Ubuntu 11 are Windows 8 clones, really. Try it for yourself and see. Everybody seems to struggle to make computers behave like toys for 10 years old.

    • RaterKey

      The key thing is Microsoft Office.

      Today enterprise is still very reliant on running Microsoft Office, this is changing but very slowly. Google Docs is being adopted by individuals in the more trendy and techy sides of industry (I’m a CTO/dev and come across lots of people who just use Docs, including me) and that looks like the only option right now that could hurt MS (notice that I am not mentioning Libre or OpenOffice, even as a long term user of OpenOffice I don’t think it or Libre will ever be widely adopted by enterprise. Anyway, it is too late for those, if anything takes over from MS Office it will be a cloud solution, that is the future).

      Linux on desktop is not a serious solution for enterprise, at least not yet. Mac really isn’t much of an option still, but it is in a far stronger position than Linux is as you can run MS Office without a problem on that platform (OK, it isn’t 100% the same but it is largely good enough). The only advantage that Linux has is that it already is in enterprise in a big way, but on server, not desktop.

  • Andrew Jamison

    Matt I can see people movie to Mac but if the rumors are true and Apple decides to use IOS for their desktops as well then bbuisnesses may be forced to move to a new platform yet again.

    I am not sure how accurate these rumors are though so it may not be an issue but if true this could cost the buisness even more money.

  • Jeremy van Vliet

    Whell the Metro experience is not bad, I’m just not shure how an enterprise could use it in their infrastructure….. Let’s say using Citrix XenApp and what not.