Are Indian enterprises ready for Windows 11?

CIOs and IT managers need to evaluate their PC fleet’s readiness for Windows 11, and weigh the benefits of upgrading against the risks.

With the launch of Windows 11 on 5 October 2021, Indian enterprises now face the question of when—or whether—to upgrade.

The new OS has a new look, tighter integration with Teams, and the ability to run Android apps downloaded from Amazon’s app store. It also introduces a new security model, dependent on the TPM 2.0 hardware security modules found only in newer PCs.

It also marks a return to the pattern of big-bang releases followed by a yearly update schedule that Microsoft tried to move away from with the Windows-as-a-service approach of Windows 10.  Microsoft once presented that as the last ever version of Windows, one that would be continually improved with updates two or three times a year, and although its days are numbered, it will continue to offer updates until 2025.

So how have Indians treated new versions of Windows in the past, and how should they consider at this one?

Ashok Cherian, CIO at Page Industries, says, “The most important things in a CIO’s mind while migrating to a new version of the OS would be the stability and the hardware resource needs. What is required is a relatively bug-free release and not much need of scaling the hardware. This would not only get the migration faster but also make it make more wider and broader.”

In India, 66% of Windows users had adopted Windows 10 by August 2021, with 28% still using Windows 7, and 5% Windows 8 or 8.1. Almost no one was still using XP or Vista, according to Statcounter’s GlobalStats service.

India is one of the laggards: Windows 10 adoption is around 78% worldwide, and 86% in the US.

Windows adoption has always been much slower in India: Windows XP took much longer to go away, Vista hardly ever arrived, and Windows 10’s arrival, like that of 7 before it, was much smoother and more spread out. It took until April 2019 for Windows 10 to overtake Windows 7 in India, whereas the same landmark was passed in December 2016 in the US, just 17 months after launch.

The Indian IT landscape presents some interesting challenges when it comes to rolling out a new operating system, with the IT and IT-enabled services industries often at the forefront of adoption, and others more likely to stick with older technologies and hardware.

What influences software adoption in India?

Broad industry support is one factor. Peeush Bajpai, CEO of enterprise IT training provider Springpeople, says, “Software adoption among people working in the IT industry has always been rapid and high. We can expect the IT and developer community to join in, bringing out value-added services on top to enhance the end-user experience, be it software, services or training on the new software and technologies.”

Simplicity and cost also play a role. Jaipal Singh, IDC’s research manager for client devices, says, “Windows 11 is going to be a free upgrade to all users who are using a Windows 10 PC or buying a PC before the official launch of Windows 11 to customers. Microsoft intends to upgrade them smoothly to the next version without impacting their routine. Hence, it is expected that a greater segment that is using Windows 10 would like to go for this upgrade.”

However, companies are cautious, and will want to make a checklist to test the compatibility of the final version with their existing applications before planning for a company-wide upgrade.

“Usually, it’s the consumer and SMB segments who adopt these upgrades quickly,” he says. “Enterprises will take their time to complete this diligence before migrating their employees to the new OS. But this migration will be much faster than the Windows 7 migration that we have witnessed in the past in India.”

Challenges ahead

Vipin Gupta, CTO at Starbucks India, also raises the issues of hardware and application compatibility. In retail, he says, large number of apps are already cloud based, while corporate systems such as SAP often still have clients that run locally. Upgrading will require all legacy apps to be compatible with Windows 11. “Most of the apps in our world are already cloud based, so that should not be a problem,” he says.

There may be hardware issues, though. “PC-based units, especially desktops, may be too old. Laptops are generally 4-5 years old. Desktops are legacy systems. We may face some challenges for desktops, but not for laptops,” he says.

Delivering the updates may be problematic too: “Network bandwidth to download software updates could be a challenge. We have on-ground people who use 50Mbps or 100Mbps lines: There is no problem there. In the workforce or home environment, that is still workable. In a distributed environment, and stores, there can be challenges. Using enterprise bandwidth across say, 130 sites, will definitely be a challenge,” says Gupta.

IDC’s Jaipal expects that companies that have already upgraded to Windows 10 will find the move to Windows 11 smooth. However, he says, “For companies who are still on lower versions of windows, it will be an added cost as they need to upgrade their hardware to comply with Windows 11’s requirements.”

It will be worth the price, though, because Windows 11 has improved significantly over Windows 7 and 8, and is better aligned with today’s need for greater mobility, collaboration, and security, he says.

So what questions should Indian CIOs ask themselves before planning a migration to Windows 11?

“If companies are already on Windows 10, it is more about aligning the internal applications and network with this new upgrade. If they get the desired results in their initial testing, they can start deploying it to a small department to test for some time before deploying it at scale,” says Jaipal.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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