Gartner guru 'shocked' by corporate reaction to Windows 10

After the debacle that was Windows 8/8.1, enterprises are responding very positively to Microsoft's Windows 10

After the debacle that was Windows 8/8.1, no one was sure how enterprises would respond to Microsoft's Windows 10, which was released on July 29. "We knew the reception was going to be better than the reception for Windows 8," said Gartner's Stephen Kleynhans. But that was setting the bar pretty low.

Speaking at Gartner's Symposium/ITExpo, Kleynhans said, "I've been shocked at how good the reception has been," among Gartner enterprise customers.

Kleynhans added that the positive response is "reflective of the fact that this is a good OS." He said Windows 10 is sleek and modern, it provides an exceptionally easy upgrade path from previous versions of Windows and it offers "cool toys."

For longtime Windows shops, each new version of the OS presented IT execs with a tough decision to make: Do I go with the new OS (see Vista or Windows 8), or stick with what I've got (see XP or Windows 7) and wait for the next one?

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Microsoft has answered that question once and for all by announcing that Windows 10 will be the last version of Windows, in the sense that it will be continuously updated, rather than be replaced by a totally new OS.

So that means "Windows 10 is an inevitable upgrade" for whatever Windows OS version you're running now, explained Kleynhans. By 2018, Gartner predicts that 80% of enterprise users will be on Windows 10.

However, Windows 10 presents some issues that IT execs need to plan for. The good news, according to Kleynhans, is that you could take Windows 10 today and drop it into a Windows 7 network and everything would just work. End users would not require any additional training. Existing apps would run just fine in pretty much all cases. And you can manage your Windows 10 network with existing management tools.

However, some things will be different. First off, you will need to get off earlier versions of Internet Explorer because support for IE 8-10 will stop at the end of this year. Windows 10 comes with the new Edge browser, but you'll still probably need IE11 as a fallback.

Then, IT will have to start planning for the fact that Microsoft will send out a new build every four months – presumably forever. Here's where it gets a little tricky. You don't need to run out and refresh every desktop immediately after the new build comes out, but you do need to stay somewhat up with the latest builds (Kleynhans says you've got about eight months to deploy) because at some point the OS will fall out of whack with the security fixes that Microsoft will issue along the way.

He advises IT execs that "to really make use of Windows 10 you need to re-think your processes. Getting on board is a commitment to stay current" with the latest iteration.

And while you can simply drop Windows 10 into your existing environment, Kleynhans points out that "if you really want to light it up and do something special with it, you have to do a little bit of extra work."

One interesting feature of Windows 10 is that it has Cortana, the virtual personal assistant. And your Cortana follows you on all Windows 10 devices, so it runs on your PC, Surface, Windows Phone, etc.

Other visionaries at the Gartner show predicted that Siri, Cortana and similar offerings could one day become the prime user interface for people. Windows 10 also delivers security features like embedded data leak protection and it makes the OS more tamper proof.

So, what's the game plan for enterprises?

Microsoft is expected to deliver the first set of updates for consumers in November, followed by a business version of those updates in March. Kleynhans recommends that IT execs take the time between now and March to learn about Windows 10, test it, "kick the tires."

He said companies should take a good six months to pilot Windows 10 with small groups and then in the summer of 2016 companies should make a decision on whether to move forward.

Do you need or want the new features? If so, you can take an aggressive approach that would mean starting to deploy Windows 10 in spots during the second half of 2016 and then moving to a situation where Windows 10 is deployed as an in-place upgrade in 2017.

If there's no specific need in your environment, a more conservative approach would be to start slowly deploying Windows 10 in the 2017 time frame, as part of your program for refreshing old hardware.

In either case, Windows 10 is not free – at least not to enterprises. However, a Windows 10 enterprise license does deliver features like Applocker, Branch Cache, Credential Guard, Device Guard, Windows To Go Creator and granular management controls.

Finally, every upgrade requires serious planning and piloting. Kleynhans said it took some organizations 18 months to two years to go from XP to Windows 7. "This one won't be as bad," he said. It's a more straightforward upgrade, but it will still require meticulous planning to make sure that all your apps and processes will work on the new OS.

Weinberg is executive features editor at Network World. He can be reached at nweinberg@nww.com.

This story, "Gartner guru 'shocked' by corporate reaction to Windows 10" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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