February 29, 2012, 9:49 AM — When Windows 8's beta version becomes available for download on Wednesday, Microsoft expects many enterprises to jump at the chance to give the new operating system a test drive, but some industry analysts doubt that there will be much interest among corporate IT officials.
Most organizations are focused on Windows 7, whether they have already implemented it, are in the midst of rolling it out, or are still planning its adoption, so it's unlikely that IT departments will give Windows 8 a serious look at this point, analysts said.
However, Microsoft is betting otherwise, confident that Windows 8 packs enough enterprise IT features and functionality that IT officials will find attractive and compelling.
"The important thing when we think about Windows 8 in a business environment is how we've thought about reimagining Windows and the value it can bring to our end users," said Erwin Visser, a Senior Director for Windows at Microsoft. "The context here is that the world of work has changed dramatically over the last years."
Microsoft will officially announce and release the Windows 8 beta at an event in Barcelona, Spain, where the mammoth Mobile World Congress conference is taking place. The Windows 8 beta available on Wednesday will run on machines with x86/64 chips from Intel and AMD.
Earlier this month, Microsoft said that around this time it will also distribute to hand-picked developers and hardware partners a test version of Windows 8 for devices with ARM chips, called WOA, loaded on test PCs.
In recent months, Microsoft has been meeting with enterprise customers to discuss Windows 8, and has found them very interested in the operating system's features for tablet devices in particular, he said. Unfortunately, Microsoft wasn't able to provide any of those customers as references for press interviews at this point.
"One big point of feedback from our customers is how we can help them make their end users more mobile, and give them access to corporate resources from home, from mobile scenarios like a coffee shop, on the road," Visser said.
Indeed, Windows 8 has been designed from scratch for "touch centric" devices, namely tablets, which, thanks to the popularity of Apple's iPad, have not only taken the consumer market by storm but have also invaded workplaces as part of the "bring your own device to work" trend.
Analysts agree that Windows 8 will be very compelling for enterprises eager to roll out properly configured tablets to their employees, to cut down on the often chaotic and unsafe practice of having them use their personal tablets at work. However, it's unlikely that Windows 8 will be broadly deployed across corporate desktops any time soon, they said.