Microsoft is expected to update its Windows 8 strategy during a new conference called BUILD (Sept. 13-16, Anaheim, Calif.). A teaser for the event suggests that Windows 8 will have a bigger market impact than the Windows 95 launch back in August 1995. Details about BUILD are still sketchy but MSPmentor has to ask the obvious question: Can Microsoft once again spark the imagination of ISVs (independent software developers) with Windows 8's touch interface?
For Managed Services Providers and channel partners, Windows 8 invites an entirely different set of questions. No doubt, some MSPs have helped their customers to migrate from Windows XP and Windows Vista to Windows 7. Software companies like Kaseya have launched imaging and migration tools that allow MSPs to remotely roll out Windows 7 to thousands of systems.
Microsoft says Windows 7 has sold more than 400 million licenses. Yet Windows revenues dipped 1 percent during Microsoft's most recent quarter. Meanwhile, Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 effort has been struggling.
Windows 8 attempts to solve multiple Microsoft challenges. It brings the Windows Phone 7 touch interface onto mainstream PCs. That move, in turn, could create a halo effect for Windows smartphones.
But I also think Windows 8 creates a boatload of new challenges for Microsoft. By most accounts, Windows 7 is a stable, popular upgrade to Windows XP and Windows Vista. Microsoft is urging partners to keep marching customers forward with Windows 7. Yet there are signs that Windows 8 may reach general availability in April 2012, according to Mary Jo Foley's All About Microsoft blog.
Building Something NewWhatever the case, it sounds like Microsoft will share more Windows 8 details during the BUILD conference in September 2011. The event is positioned for ISVs (independent software vendors). Smart move. During Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2009, Microsoft showcased Corel -- yes, Corel -- as a key Windows 7 ISV. No offense to Corel, but it was clear that Microsoft's ISV base hadn't really created any killer applications for Windows 7.
That has to change with Windows 8. It seems like emerging ISVs increasingly focus first on Apple iOS (iPhone, iPad) and Google Android. Microsoft must somehow win back the ISV buzz with Windows 8. At the same time, Microsoft must ensure that the Windows 7 upgrade market doesn't stall while potential buzz for Windows 8 builds.
That's where MSPs enter the picture. My suggestion: Keep an eye on Windows 8 and make sure you have an educated reply if/when customers start asking about it. There should be plenty of Windows 8 chatter when the BUILD conference debuts in September 2011. But ultimately, MSPs should continue plowing ahead with Windows 7 upgrades within their Microsoft customer bases.