"Is Windows 8 going to be attractive to enterprises? The answer in the short term is: probably not," said Al Gillen, an IDC analyst. "Enterprises tend to be conservative about their deployments and a new Microsoft product coming out the door that has a lot of improvements and changes represents a source of potential problems."
"When this product launches, enterprises that are currently deploying Windows 7 are unlikely to stop and begin deploying Windows 8," he added.
Gartner estimates that in developed countries Windows 7, which began shipping in October 2009, has been fully implemented in about 10 percent of enterprises, while 55 percent are in the process of deploying it and 25 percent are just starting, said Michael Silver, a Gartner analyst. The remaining 10 percent have barely looked at it.
Except for those planning to roll out tablets, most organizations will skip Windows 8 entirely, Silver predicts. "Most organizations haven't yet migrated from Windows XP. They're in the midst of their Windows 7 deployments and they need to stay the course and maybe even accelerate their Windows 7 deployments," he said.
"We don't see that many organizations that are just finished with their Windows 7 deployments will look at Windows 8 and say: 'Yes, lets do it again,'" Silver added.
As of Dec. 31 of last year, more than 525 million Windows 7 licenses had been sold since its launch, and it had been installed in about one-third of enterprise desktops worldwide.
According to Visser, the last thing Microsoft would want is for any enterprise engaged in deploying Windows 7 to stop on its tracks after testing Windows 8. "Our message to enterprises is that it's important for them to continue their Windows 7 deployments because those investments will carry forward to Windows 8," he said.
Microsoft hasn't said when it plans to ship Windows 8, but IDC's Gillen believes that the company will try hard to have it ready in time for this year's holiday season, loaded in new consumer PCs and tablets. "There's a fair amount of pressure on Microsoft not to miss the holiday shopping season," Gillen said.
Indeed, during Microsoft's second fiscal quarter, ended Dec. 31, revenue at the Windows & Windows Live division shrank 6 percent to $4.74 billion, hurt in particular by a slowdown in consumer PC sales.
The success of Windows 8 has serious implications for Microsoft. "Windows 8 is perhaps the most critical release of Windows we've had probably back to as far as Windows 2000 Professional or even Windows 95," Gillen said. "I see this as being so fundamentally important."