In the over-reported and -analyzed business and IT technology world in which we live, yesterday’s grist for news — such as my preceding blog “Windows 8 Slide Leaks the Shape of Things to Come” — can itself become fodder for today’s news. At least, that’s what I thought when I saw Tony Bradley’s thought-provoking piece for PCWorld this morning, entitled “Leaked Windows 8 Details Could Slow Success of Windows 7.”
Mr. Bradley’s basic premises go something like this: Windows 8 mentions interesting and possibly significant new hardware requirements (for example, a Web cam used for facial recognition, among numerous other jazzy and snazzy planned features and functions). Windows 8 will probably be out in two to three years. Some companies and organizations may elect to delay their OS upgrade and hardware refresh still further to wait for Windows 8 to get finished, so they can buy hardware on which it will run.
I find it interesting, but I don’t buy it. Lots of studies show that as desktops and notebooks age, especially over three years for notebooks, and four to five years for desktops, the costs of supporting and maintaining older hardware rise impressively. With many companies and organizations having already pushed the envelope past its normal tearing point (many notebooks are 4-5 years old, and desktops 5-6 years old in a large number of enterprises, companies, government offices, schools, and so forth), there’s little chance that enough elasticity resides in those poor old things to permit them to eke out another 2-3 years of productive use.
My personal belief, well-supported by reports from major PC manufacturers and Microsoft itself, is that the “big refresh” is already underway, and that it will be accelerating over the next 12-24 months. I don’t think it matters that Windows 8 is around a corner not too far away: it’s the distance from the last corner (Windows XP) and the corner that got skipped (Windows Vista) that really makes the difference right now.
Perhaps Mr. Bradley is right to the extent that the pace of Windows 7 purchases (7 per second, according to recent MS press releases) may drop off a bit. But I think the old desktop and netbook fleet is too old to hold out for another 2-3 years for the next, bigger, and better Windows to come along.