Windows 10, Microsoft's next operating system, isn't expected until the middle of next year at least, and the company is still slowly revealing the details, which include support for a wider range of devices and increased security.
But considering the cool reception Windows 8 has had from business so far, Microsoft has to make a compelling case to firms as to why they should upgrade to Windows 10 when it arrives.
And so far, tech chiefs on seem to have a positive view of Windows 10, at least at this early stage in its development. When asked "Do you think Microsoft heading in the right direction with Windows 10?" the TechRepublic CIO Jury voted yes by a margin of 11 to one.
"From our preliminary review, the Windows 10 Technical Preview looks to be on the right track. Our institution has bypassed Windows 8.x and looks forward to testing and implementation of Windows 10 as soon as we confirm compatibility with our systems. It's great to be excited about a new version of Windows again," said Chuck Elliott, CTO at Concord University.
And Michael Spears, CIO at NCCI Holdings, was similarly optimistic: "It's still very early, but it seems they have renewed their focus on business, which deteriorated over the last few years. It's very welcome from my perspective."
Delano Gordon, CIO at Roofing Supply Group, said getting business onboard early will be key for Microsoft. "I believe they dropped the ball with Windows 8 thinking both business and consumers would love the new user interface.
"Business and its user base will always be slow to change without proper mechanisms in place to ease any transition. A strong and compelling argument must exist before enterprises, having just transitioned to Windows 7, decide to go to Windows 10 right out of the gate. The list of features and improvements sound like a step in the right direction however."
But just because these tech chiefs like the look of Windows 10 it doesn't necessarily mean they're in a rush to migrate to it: instead, many seem quite comfortable with Microsoft's last-but-one operating system, Windows 7 (in any case businesses usually wait a year or so after a new operating system is released before moving over). In particular, many firms have been reluctant to move to the Windows 8 because they worry the new look and feel it offers could be confusing to staff.
Richard Frisch, CTO at Global Strategy Group, said Microsoft is heading in the correct direction for enterprise users. Windows 8 is too different to Windows 7 to be easily supported, he said, but while Windows 10 has some of Windows 8/8.1 changes embedded - like both a Control Panel and PC Settings app for configuring the system - it is more familiar for end users than Windows 8.1, "and that makes it a better UI/UX in business".
"I doubt we will be migrating to Windows 10 within the next two to three years unless access to Windows 7 is totally cut off," he added.
"It's a step in the right direction, but still doesn't offer anything compelling to convince business users to move from Windows 7. At this time there are zero reasons to incur the costs of migrating the business to a new version of Windows," said Paul Spencer, head of delivery at Cheapflights.
Robert Cireddu, director of technology at Riverside Local School District and Ledgemont School District, said while his school district has a Citrix-based thin client solution in place and more than 1,000 Chromebooks deployed, it also still has about 2,000 Windows PCs in use every day. "I don't see that number decreasing significantly when Windows 7 (our current OS of choice) support ends. We will skip Windows 8 almost completely in our deployment cycle, so, I don't see where we would have a choice but to embrace 10. Having said that, a cursory review of Windows 10 makes me think it is an OS we will be able to use with some work, but without hesitation," he said.
Jeff Cannon, CIO of Fire and Life Safety America, said there "is still not a compelling reason to migrate from Windows 7."
Cannon said: "Windows 10 looks and sounds great. And, Microsoft appears headed in the right direction. But, I still don't feel that compelling urge to immediately jump to Windows 10. I felt that need with Windows 7. I was an early adopter and I couldn't get our systems off XP fast enough. But for Windows 8 , and now 10, I just don't see or feel it yet."
He explained for example: "I don't need Windows 10 to use MDM to manage windows devices. I already have MDM products that do that." Similarly he didn't need Windows 10 to interface with a Windows phone. "I don't have any users that want a Windows phone."
Cannon said a touch-enabled operating system maybe a big deal for managers "but not an advantage for the hard-core users that are entering large amounts of data day to day."
He said: "It may be more intuitive than Windows 8 but I didn't have any users jumping to Windows 8," and said the only demand for Windows 8 is for staff that want the Surface Pro 3, of which he has deployed several.
"After a fair amount of training and troubleshooting getting the end user up to speed on the new interface, the users really seem to enjoy their new toy. No real increase in productivity but it's a nice upgrade. Now, multiply that migration by several hundred or several thousand users and you're looking at a pain point not a pleasure point - and not from an IT perspective. I mean from lost productivity and disruption as an operations manager."
Meanwhile for John Gracyalny, VP IT at SafeAmerica Credit Union, the issue is one that may not be resolved anytime soon: "This is an open question to me, and will continue to be so for a least two more years. But the bigger issue is that we have to wait until all our key vendors officially support Win10 before we can install it, and based on experience, this is a year-plus to two years after the O/S release."
So what does all of this mean? Windows 8 was always going to be a bridge between the old desktop world and the new world as embodied by tablets and cloud computing. CIOs are still very wary of Windows 8 and the retraining they fear it entails, which is why they've been so keen to hang on to Windows 7. That will finally go out-of-support in 2020, so by the time Windows 10 is mature enough for enterprise adoption - say 2017 - Microsoft will need to have persuaded firms of the value of the upgrade.
This week's CIO Jury was
- Delano Gordon, CIO, Roofing Supply Group
- Chuck Elliott, CTO, Concord University
- Robert Cireddu, Director of Technology, Riverside Local School District and Ledgemont School District
- Richard Frisch, CTO, Global Strategy Group
- Paul Spencer, Head of Delivery, Cheapflights
- Brian Stanek, VP of IT, Namico
- Michael Spears, CIO at NCCI Holdings
- Jeff Cannon, CIO of Fire and Life Safety America
- Kelly Bodway, VP of IT, Universal Lighting Technologies
- Jerry Justice, IT director, SS&G Financial Services
- Shawn Beighle, CIO, International Republican Institute
- John Gracyalny, VP of IT, SafeAmerica Credit Union
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Steve Ranger is the UK editor of TechRepublic, and has been writing about the impact of technology on people, business and culture for more than a decade. Before joining TechRepublic he was the editor of silicon.com.