Why IT needs to prepare for an environment with fewer Windows

Many CIOs still think that this is a Microsoft-dominated world when they look at the number of Windows desktops and servers in their environment.

But a report last week from Gartner and comments from Microsoft officials this week at its annual Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, D.C., may give them pause to reconsider.

If you consider everything except servers – meaning desktops, laptops, hybrids, smart phones, tablets – Windows last year had only a 14 per cent market share of new devices shipped. That will dip to 13.7 per cent this year.

That makes sense: As we have reported over the past year, sales of tablets now exceed PCs, and sales of smart phones continue to grow. Both platforms are dominated by Android and iOS operating systems.

What this means for CIOs and IT managers, if they haven’t noticed already, is that they have to be prepared to oversee a multi-operating system world particularly if the organization allows staff to bring their own devices to work.

There may be some relief – BYOD policies often stipulate that the enterprise doesn’t offer tech support for employee-owned devices. Either staff are left on their own to contact carriers (for smart phones) or manufacturers (to tablets and laptops), or the company helps with setting up wikis or intranets where employees can share tips and answer questions. An increasing reliance on cloud-based applications will mean more staff only need a device with a browser to do much of their work — and that could mean opportunities for Linux or Google Chrome-based PCs and laptops to increase their presence in the enterprise.

But there’s also no doubt staff will continue to query tech support for what they believe are questions that can be easily answered.

For its part, Microsoft (Nasdaq:MSFT) wants to shake up its ecosystem of partners and system integrators by a) letting them know they’d better get tougher and b) make them see that in an increasingly mobile world there are great opportunities. “We can’t stick with the status quo,” Kevin Turner, Microsoft’s chief operating officer, was quoted as telling the partner conference. “We have to redefine how we think about the market.”

That was also CEO Satya Nadella’s message to staff last week warning of a change in direction, which more than one observer noted barely mentioned Windows.

But those running IT departments should get used to the idea — if they haven’t got it yet — that building environments only around Windows won’t be the future.

What do you think? Let us know in the space below.

Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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