Enterprises eye a fast switch to Windows 10

'Level of interest…indicates much more rapid shift to Windows 10 than any previous operating system,' says Gartner

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Credit: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Enterprise interest in Windows 10, getting onto it and off Windows 7, is at an unprecedented level, research firm Gartner said today.

Although in virtually all cases tha interest has not yet translated into actual deployments, it signals a faster move to the new OS than for past editions, including Windows 7, Gartner analyst Steve Kleynhans contended in an interview.

"The level of interest expressed by our customer base, the type of questions they asking, indicates a much more rapid shift to Windows 10 than any previous operating system," said Kleynhans.

In past migrations, Gartner's clients went through a consistent set of steps in the queries to the firm's analysts, added Kleynhans: From 'What is it?' to 'Why should we care?' to 'How do we do it?'

"Those stretched out over a year-to-year-and-a-half," said Kleynhans, talking about past migrations, including the one starting in late 2009 for Windows 7. "Here we have seen that compressed, to about nine months. [Enterprises] are already asking 'How should we do it?' and 'How are others' pilots doing?'"

Many of those questions have come only recently, Kleynhans acknowledged, which he argued made the shift even more impressive. "From an enterprise standpoint, Windows 10 wasn't complete or stable until about eight weeks ago. So from their perspective, the OS is only a couple of months old."

Kleynhans was referring to the Nov. 12 upgrade, tagged as 1511, that was Windows 10's first refresh since the July launch. Among the new features of interest to enterprises in 1511: Update, upgrade and security patch management under the "Windows Update for Business" (WUB) umbrella; and a Windows app store specifically for businesses.

Microsoft has been boasting of Windows 10's adoption pace for months, asserting three weeks ago that 200 million "active devices" running the OS -- the metric, typically touted by service-based firms, was new for Microsoft -- and claimed that it "continues to be on the fastest growth trajectory of any version of Windows -- ever."

Twenty-two million of the 200 million, or 11%, were in enterprise and education customers, Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft's lead marketing executive for the Windows and devices group, said in a Jan. 4 post to a company blog.

Mehdi also trumpeted other enterprise-specific statistics, saying that three-fourths of Microsoft's enterprise customers were in "active pilots" of Windows 10. He did not detail the size of those pilots, or the trajectory of mainstream enterprise migrations.

For his part, Kleynhans reiterated Gartner's previous forecasts of corporate adoption. "Most of 2016 for most [enterprises] will be about piloting and early deployment," Kleynhans predicted. "The big fleet deployments will mostly start in 2017. Realistically, they won't do that in a year, so most will finish them off in 2018."

Caveats abounded in Gartner's prognostication, however. "What we could see happen is that [enterprises] see the process as smoother than they now believe will be the case," said Kleynhans. Or migrations could hit hitches, and lag behind his cadence conjecture.

One factor that plays to faster, not slower, upgrade schedules is that for many companies, this is déjà vu all over again.

"A big thing is there is some pent-up demand for devices like the Surface Pro 4, that class of 2-in-1 and convertible devices," said Kleynhans, referring to the small-but-quickly-growing category of hardware with detachable or pivot-style screens. Corporations tried, but failed, to support those devices with Windows 8, and a year later, Windows 8.1, Kleynhans observed.

"IT made promises to users a year ago, but failed to deliver," he said. "Now they're trying to reinstate those projects with Windows 10."

Others besides Gartner have scrambled onto the fast Windows 10 adoption bandwagon. Adaptiva -- a Bellevue, Wash. company that specializes in systems management, specifically for Microsoft's System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) -- recently publicized a survey of IT professionals that showed 12% of the respondents' companies had installed Windows 10 on 5% or more of their PCs.

Forty percent of those companies -- thus representing about 5% of the total -- said that Windows 10 was on half or more of their systems. And 60% of the firms what now have 5% or more of their machines running Windows 10 -- or just over 7% of the total -- claimed that they would have half or more of their PCs on the new OS within the next year.

Adaptiva characterized enterprise interest in Windows 10 as "unprecedented adoption of the new operating system." But the small fraction of those that have broken the 5% barrier with pilots actually illustrates that, while interest in Windows 10 may well be significant, the bulk of corporations will almost certainly conduct large-scale deployments on Gartner's timeline, meaning in 2017 and 2018.

It's no coincidence that businesses will shoot for that schedule: All Windows 7 support ends in January 2020, and under a new scheme Microsoft just revealed, support for the older OS on newer hardware will come to a halt in July 2017.

"Part of the interest in Windows 10 is that enterprises are very aware of the end-of-life of Windows 7," said Kleynhans.

As they should be: Many companies learned the hard way when, as Windows XP's support wound down in the spring of 2014, they had to scramble to purge the ancient operating system. "They want to avoid those issues," Kleynhans said.

This story, "Enterprises eye a fast switch to Windows 10" was originally published by Computerworld.