Windows 8: Why Microsoft's next OS is haunted by the fate of Windows Vista

Could the unloved Windows Vista make life difficult for Microsoft's next operating system?

The unloved Windows Vista could make life tougher for its latest descendant Windows 8, says's chief reporter Nick Heath.

Microsoft is probably feeling quietly confident about the prospects for Windows 8. Advance word is generally positive about the operating system's lightening quick boot time and touch-friendly tiled interface.

But for all of Microsoft's engineering skill and the efforts to generate a buzz about Windows 8, the final product is going to face a tough market when it is released. The business world may be hard to convince of the benefits of Windows 8, and not because of any weaknesses in the product, but simply because of the differing fortunes of its predecessors - Windows 7 and Windows Vista.

Windows 8

Windows 8 may struggle to match Windows 7's sales in the enterprise marketImage: Microsoft

Businesses never loved Windows Vista. Analyst house Gartner estimates that today, five years after Vista's release, the operating system is found on less than 10 per cent of enterprise PCs in Europe and less than 15 per cent in the US.

In contrast, the corporate world has embraced Windows 7, with US companies telling Gartner they expect to be running Windows 7 on about half of their PCs by the end of the year.

And even those organisations that have not upgraded to Windows 7 by the end of the year may still not be willing to wait for Windows 8, given how long it can take to plan the deployment of an OS in a large enterprise. That's because deploying a new OS to many thousands of PCs can take as long as 18 months, so businesses that wait for Windows 8's release before upgrading from XP risk being stuck using an OS without any official support.

The upshot for Windows 8 is that when it is released - rumoured to be Autumn next year - a sizeable portion of enterprise PCs will be running or be due to be upgraded to Windows 7.

Given that by the time Windows 8 is out a large swathe of businesses will have recently shelled out for Windows 7, it seems unlikely that enterprises will be willing to stump up for a new OS. If those businesses put off their next OS upgrade for another four years, which is how long it typically takes for businesses to refresh their desktop OS, then businesses are likely to skip Windows 8 altogether, in favour of some future flavour of OS.

Gartner research director Annette Jump predicts...