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Microsoft may face resistance to Windows 8

Enterprises now in the midst of migrating to Windows 7 are unlikely to repeat that same work in just two years with Windows 8, an analyst said today.

“They would certainly like to upgrade only to every other edition,” said Michael Silver of Gartner, referring to businesses. “If Windows 8 comes out in two years, I think that’s likely to happen, that many [enterprises] will be very suspect about migrating to the next release.”

Silver’s comments came after the Dutch arm of Microsoft announced that the follow-on to Windows — dubbed “Windows 8” by most, if not by Microsoft — will ship in two years, or in 2012.

That timeline fits earlier Microsoft statements that said Windows is on a three-year development plan.

The remark about Windows 8 — “Microsoft is on course for the next version of Windows. But it will take about two years before ‘Windows 8′ [is] on the market,” the Microsoft Netherlands blog stated Friday — has since been scrubbed from the post. Tom Warren of Neowin.net was the first to report on the Dutch posting.

The fact that Microsoft scratched the Windows 8 reference came as no surprise to Silver or Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash. research firm that tracks only Microsoft’s moves.

“If Microsoft starts talking up Windows 8 now, it risks slowing momentum for Windows 7,” said Cherry in an e-mail reply to questions.

Windows 7 does have momentum on its side: Last week Microsoft said it has sold more than 240 million licenses to the one-year-old operating system, making it the fastest-selling OS in the company’s history.

Web metrics company Net Applications has also noted the fast pace of Windows 7 adoption. According to its statistics, Windows 7 reached a 17% usage share in just one year, more than twice as fast as did the problem- and perception-plagued Vista.

But the three-year development cycle that Microsoft seems committed to will present problems for companies, if not consumers.

Fatigue, for one thing, said Silver, who cited the slow uptake for Office XP, which appeared just three years after its predecessor, Office 97, as an example. Companies tire of migrating to fast-paced operating system upgrades, largely because of the number of critical applications that may or may not run on a new edition.

That’s one reason enterprises generally seem more willing to upgrade if the new version is a “minor” update, or one that doesn’t introduce a new architecture, but resist a so-called “major” upgrade. That was one of the reasons why Vista never got traction in business, said Silver.

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