Windows 8 will be a minority BYOD player through 2017

Credit: Microsoft Sweden via Flickr

Windows 8 might be the most-anticipated in a series of major product launches this week from vendors that dominate the BYOD world. But Windows 8 won't sell well right away. It won't even sell well next year, according to a new report on mobile operating systems from Forrester Research uber-analyst Frank Gillett.

Windows 8-powered machines will have a "slow start" in 2013 before hitting its stride in 2014, according to Windows: The Next Five Years (registration required).

The personal and mobile markets have shifted so hard toward non-PC devices, in fact, that the best result Microsoft can hope for is that Windows 8 reverses the years-long trend toward shrinkage in the percentage of all personal computing devices running Windows, Gillett wrote.

With tablets and smartphones making up such a big part of the installed base of personal-computing hardware, it only makes sense to rate the success of operating systems by including all the major categories of personal device.

By that criterion, Windows is a lot less successful even now than it was a few years ago.

The number of PCs running Windows hasn't shrunk in the past five years. But the number of tablets and smartphones that have become routine elements in the personal-computing arsenal of both consumer and business users has increased so fast that the percentage of the personal-device market made up of laptops and desktop PCs has shrunk drastically.

"If you combine all the unit sales of personal devices, Microsoft’s share of units has shrunk drastically to about 30% in 2012," Gillett wrote.

Smaller frog, bigger pool

Overall, Microsoft operating systems make up about 30 percent of the market for personal computing devices right now. Rather than increasing that share, Windows 8 will only stop the relative shrinkage to help keep Microsoft at about the same 30 percent market share in 2016 as in 2012.

The tablet-friendly Windows 8 will eventually earn about 27 percent of the overall tablet market, but the related Winodws Phone 8 will make up only about 14 percent of the smartphone market. "And some of us are very skeptical [Microsoft] will even get to 14 percent," Gillett wrote.

Market-research firm NPD DisplaySearch is even less optimistic. It predicted in May that tablets will outsell traditional PCs by 2016, but that Microsoft will be able to claim only 7.5 percent of the tablet market by 2017.

Apple's iOS will lose a huge chunk of market share, dropping from 72 percent this year to a comparatively puny 50.9 percent in 2017, while Android grows from 22.5 percent to 40.5 percent during the same period, DisplaySearch predicted.

The result will be a far more fragmented and complex environment for personal computing than most businesses have had to deal with until now, Gillett wrote.

Microsoft will continue to dominate traditional PCs, but an increasing amount of work will be done on tablets, where Apple's iOS will dominate, or smartphones, where Android will hold sway.

The troika of operating-system giants may make it simpler for consumers and BYOD participants to pick their own favorite computing environment. But it will only continue to make the challenge more complex for IT departments trying to run corporate apps and put corporate data on PCs, tablets, and smartphones that all run different operating systems, even when they're owned by the same end user.

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