Gartner is elevating Windows 8 to a must-win gamble by Microsoft if it wants to matter in the evolving world of personal devices, according to a Gartner special report.
"It is a risk that Microsoft must take to stay relevant in a world where mobile devices with new modern experiences are becoming the norm," according to "Is Windows 8 in Your Future" by Gartner analysts Michael A. Silver and Stephen Kleynhans.
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By giving Windows an interface that is more in line with ever-more-popular tablets and smartphones, Microsoft is de-emphasizing the PC as the main computing tool used for work, a drastic change given the company's historic dominance in PC platforms. But that is changing.
"Once the hub connecting all of a user's devices, the PC increasingly is simply a peer with other devices," the report says. "For many, the PC is not even their preferred device, yielding to smaller and lighter devices that feel more personal and intimate."
In one sense Microsoft has an advantage over competitors Apple and Google, whose phones and tablets have more in common than their PCs and tablets, the report says. "This plays to Microsoft's strength in PCs, leveraging it not only to enter the tablet market, but also to improve its share of the smartphone market," the Gartner report says.
Windows 8 is a dramatic departure from previous Windows that it is likely to underpin Microsoft's offerings for the next 20 years. The Windows Runtime Library, or WinRT, is the key difference, making it possible to write applications once and have them run on both Windows 8 PCs and tablets. "We believe it's the start of a new era for Microsoft, the Windows RT era, which follows the Windows NT era that began in 1993 and is just starting to wane," Gartner says.
The modern user interface dominated by text and tiles that users press on tablet touchscreens is good for tablets and smartphones, but its utility as a desktop interface has businesses in a quandary. "The result is an OS that looks appropriate on new form factors of PC hardware, including tablets, hybrids and convertibles, but has people wondering about its appropriateness for traditional desktop and notebook machines that comprise the majority of the existing PC market," according to the Gartner report.