Windows 7 still rules the enterprise, but that's starting to change

Credit: IDGNS

When exactly did the enterprise stop being a place that ran only Windows? It was probably in the second half of 2010 when employees started asking IT to install their work email on their new iPads.

In short order, a rapid march toward a BYOD model began. Now, IT must manage a variety of smartphones, tablets, mobile apps, and operating systems -- namely Apple iOS and Google's Android.

IT departments must also keep managing PC-based Windows 7, Windows XP and, to a smaller extent, Windows Vista and Mac OS. While Windows 8 remains missing in action in the enterprise, Windows 7 adoption has surpassed XP use, which is good timing given that Microsoft will end XP support in April 2014.

Despite the complexity, the enterprise OS landscape has not quite descended into chaos. But it does grow more fragmented each day due to bring-your-own behavior, posing a major threat to Windows dominance, according to a new report from Forrester Research, "Navigating Diversity in Operating Systems and Browsers."

"The consumer electronics market helped ignite this newfound OS diversity, as users spend more and more of their computing time using smartphones, tablets and other non-PC devices," writes report author and Forrester analyst J.P. Gownder.

"Measured as a single computing market, Microsoft Windows' share of all personal devices has shrunk from 67 percent in 2008 to 30 percent in 2012."

Forrester used two surveys to determine the current state of OSes in the enterprise. First, it analyzed more than 3.9 million visitors to Forrester.com between May 1, 2012 and January 31, 2013. Second, Forrester's Forrsights surveyed IT decision-makers and information workers, asking "What operating systems do your firm's company-issued PCs run?"

Here are some of Forrester's key data points on the evolving enterprise OS landscape.

Windows 7 Is the New Standard

Windows 7 has become the enterprise standard since its release in late 2009. Nevertheless, it has not reached the adoption levels and popularity that Windows XP enjoyed at its peak in 2007 when it was installed on more than 80 percent of enterprise desktops, according to Forrester.

With mobile OSes charging the gates, Windows 7 faces a more complex and competitive enterprise environment than XP ever did. In addition, "Windows XP took five years to reach its peak, while Windows 7 has only been present in the market for three-and-a-half years," writes Forrester analyst Gownder.

According to one of the Forrester surveys cited in the report, 47.5 percent of 1,272 North American and European IT hardware decision-makers run Windows 7 on company-issued PCs, while 38.2 percent run Windows XP, 3.5 percent run Vista and 7.2 percent run Mac OS. Windows 8 is not mentioned in the survey results.

In addition, 50 percent of the 3.9 million Web visits to Forrester.com from May 2012 to Jan. 2013 came from machines running Windows 7. Windows XP was a distant second at 22.3 percent.

More Macs Emerge With BYOD

It's worth noting that the aforementioned 7.2 percent Mac OS number tells merely part of the Apple enterprise story. Why? Because that percentage includes only company-issued Macs and doesn't take BYOD into account.

To verify a bring-your-own Mac presence in the enterprise, Forrester noted in its report that Mac OS traffic on Forrester.com has increased from 8.7 percent of web visits in May 2010 to 14.6 percent today. In a separate Forrester survey that examines the technology and behaviors of employees, 14.3 percent of information workers globally say they are using a personally owned Mac for their work in a typical week.

"The gap between IT support on one hand and employee web traffic and self-reported ownership on the other indicates a strong Mac BYO presence," writes Gownder.

Mobile OSes on the Verge

PC operating systems are a still a majority, but a shrinking one, as mobile devices take on a legitimate role in the enterprise.

While 92.9 percent of Forrester's web visitors are coming from PC operating systems, the remaining 7 percent of web traffic is coming from mobile devices. Of that 7 percent, 5.6 percent is from iOS devices (iPhone and iPad), 1.2 percent is from Android devices, 0.2 percent is from BlackBerry and 0.1 percent is from Windows 8/Windows Phone devices.

Forrester reports that more than 400 million iOS devices sold worldwide by mid-2012 and at least 100 million of those were iPads.

"The reach of these devices is vast and growing," writes Gownder. "Global information workers have eagerly adopted iOS devices, as 25 percent report using personally owned iPhones and 18 percent report using personally owned iPads for their work."

Shane O'Neill is the Assistant Managing Editor for CIO.com. Follow Shane on Twitter @smoneill. Email Shane at soneill@cio.com

This story, "Windows 7 still rules the enterprise, but that's starting to change" was originally published by CIO .

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