MANILA, Philippines — The impending release of Microsoft’s new operating system Windows 8 will bring forth such tectonic changes in user computing that will lessen the relevance of desktop-based computing and applications, according to analyst firm Gartner.
The shift, according to Gartner analysts, is underpinned by Microsoft’s decision to support a common core development platform for its desktop, phone, tablet and server flavors, also known as WinRT (Windows Runtime).
“Windows 8 is the start of Microsoft’s effort to respond to market demands and competitors, as it provides a common interface and programming API set from phones to servers,” said Michael Silver, vice president and analyst at Gartner, who pointed out that Microsoft will still continue support for Win32 applications but “will encourage developers to write more manageable and engaging applications using WinRT.”
Gartner said such a move is Microsoft’s response to intensifying demand from consumers for more mobile and flexible computing options, qualities found mostly among smartphones and tablets today.
More than a major upgrade, Windows 8 has been touted by the analyst firm as a major “technology shift,” similar to Microsoft’s move from DOS-based computing to Windows NT technology in the early 90′s.
“The user computing world is changing. PCs, although still critical components of the computing landscape, are no longer the only devices for delivering services and applications to users,” stressed Steve Kleynhans, vice president for client and mobile computing at Gartner.
Could enterprises keep up?
Consumers, in general, are quick to adapt to such changes and are relatively accepting of major technology shifts. It’s the enterprise segment, Gartner said, who should be keeping a close watch of developments within Microsoft, particularly its push for a Metro-style user interface, which uses a tiled design and a full-screen app-like experience in place of windows.
That said, the analyst firm predicts that most users and organizations will continue to run legacy applications for 10 or more years, but stressed that “the Windows Desktop and legacy Windows applications will decline in importance in future Windows client releases.”
It added that Metro-style apps will only gain significant traction in user-facing enterprise apps in at least five years’ time, adding that firms will take many years to move their applications to the new model, with many running Win32 apps and the desktop browser through 2015 even if they have already upgraded to Windows 8.
The turning point, Gartner said, for Metro-style apps to gain foothold in the enterprise would be by 2020, when it predicts that enterprise users would spend less than 10 percent of their time running Win32 applications.
“Organizations planning to develop new Win32 applications should switch to Metro for all new user-facing applications beginning in 2013 and should focus on external apps first and internal apps later,” it suggested.