Even if you're running the latest "consumer preview" of Windows 8 on your day to day system, if you've spent much time around airport lounges or coffee shops you'll have noticed that a lot of people's laptops are still running Windows XP. Even at (most) technical conferences the cheery blue task bar is more commonly spotted than the aluminum casing with the white fruit logo. Today between 30 and 40% of the world's computers are still running Windows XP.
In a lot of cases these people aren't running XP because they think "wow, this OS totally kicks gluteus over Windows 7" - but because the organizations that they work for haven't got around to replacing Windows XP in their desktop operating system lifecycle. For some it's a matter of "if it ain't broke" and for others it is a lack of a "round tuit".
Even though in 2 years Microsoft is going to stop providing updates to Windows XP (April 8 2014), it is likely that there are still going to be tens of millions of computers running the operating system. Eventually the last computer running Windows XP on a corporate network will be powered down, but given that there are still organizations out there running Windows NT 4 and Windows 98, that day is still in the distant future.
The longevity of Windows XP is worth considering when it comes to the adoption of Windows 8. Although the tech press tends to get excited about new and shiny things, the reality for most organizations is that their desktop and server operating system lifecycles don't follow Microsoft's product release cycle. Introduction of a new desktop operating system in many organizations occurs years after initial release.
Windows 7 is also enjoying a similar sort of popularity to that of Windows XP. It isn't unreasonable to speculate that Windows 7 will have a similar sort of longevity to Windows XP (perhaps to Microsoft's chagrin) and that more than 30% of the world's computers will be running Windows 7 at around the time that Windows 9 is going through its first set of previews. The popularity of Windows 7 will inevitably delay the deployment of Windows 8. Again “if it ain’t broke”.
Today, as an IT Pro it means that you should definitely spend some time getting to know Windows 8 for your own reasons, but that you probably won't need that knowledge for deploying Windows 8 at work until some time in 2013 or later.
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