If you look at any of the online job sites, you are apt to see the first Windows 8 job requirements starting to trickle out. There is a 10-digit Microsoft marketing budget behind the Windows 8 product launch, which in itself is bound to feed IT consultant opportunities through marketing and partner programs to ensure Windows 8 makes it into Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) and large corporate enterprises.
The time to start learning more about Windows 8 is now. In order to become an in-demand consultant for Windows 8 projects, you need to possess a unique mix of business, Windows-specific, and mobile knowledge and skills to qualify for projects that focus on the following areas.
Windows 8 configuration and optimization
There will be plenty of work for IT consultants optimizing Windows 8 as part of an initial deployment or through follow-up projects. The configuration and optimization could span the basics of PC configuration, networking, and user policies.
Exam 70-687 Configuring Windows 8 could be a great start to building such skills.
Windows 8 security
One of the best drivers that Microsoft has for the business adoption of Windows 8 is improved security. IT consultants will play a major role in integrating Windows 8 security into the enterprise, as well as developing/revising the related security policies and procedures.
There are major changes to security architecture in Windows 8 that will benefit enterprises; these changes include the new AppContainer, TPM access, Bitlocker Encryption, Advanced ASLR, and even the Windows Store. It's going to take consulting support to help enterprises adopt these new security options.
The Windows 8 Security forum offers a strong discussion on the topic. Exam 70-687 also covers some elements of Windows 8 security.
Windows 8 evangelism
Windows 8 adoption might be a trickier affair than some vendors and even Microsoft expect. With the combined forces of tight IT budgets due to the economy, long-term Windows XP stability inside some enterprises, and Windows 7 customer satisfaction, some large corporate customers might consider passing on Windows 8 or at least delaying their migration to it.
Microsoft, its partners, and the IT consultants doing the project work will need to be salespeople and advocates for the company's latest operating system. A consultant who can speak to the benefits of the OS and be able to follow-up with proposals for implementation and Windows 8 application development projects will be in a better position to nail down a Windows 8 project.
Windows 8 application development
As a matter of course, software vendors will want their applications to take advantage of the new Windows 8 interface. The big question remains: What sorts of internal corporate applications will warrant Windows 8 love? Windows 8 application development skills are something to position as a follow-up to an enterprise migration.
Microsoft MSDN and TechNet are the best places to start learning about Windows 8 application development right now if you are already an experienced programmer.
Windows 8 mobile development
Windows 8 spans PCs, tablets, and mobile phones, so Microsoft will target enterprises with a large mobile user population. Therefore, Visual Studio 11 development skills will become important for IT consultants who want to support mobile initiatives and especially dual Microsoft Surface/Windows 8 rollouts.
If you are an iOS developer, Microsoft already has online resources to help you transition to Windows 8 mobile development.
Windows 8 User Experience (UX) consulting
Windows 8 is bound to change the UX, and consultants can be on the front lines advising development teams on designing for touch, information architecture, adaptive layouts, and related matters for the new UI. There are also changes in the Office 2013 UX that will drive new application standards and that clients will want to emulate in their Windows 8 applications.
I foresee Windows 8 UX consulting having real legs especially if Microsoft succeeds in the Windows 8/Surface tablet twofer to their enterprise customers, thus opening the door to cross-platform applications.
Channel 9 on MSDN has made available Windows 8 UX Fundamentals Workshop 2012, which is a good way to start learning the basics.
Windows 8 training
Considering the marked changes to Windows 8's UI and security features, it's natural that consultants will get tasked to train users and internal staff on the operating system's features. By extension, training may also mean developing training guides, presentations, FAQs, and getting started guides for users and the in-house staff tasked with Windows 8 support after the consulting engagement ends.
Build your Windows 8 knowledge and skills now
Regardless of what you think about Windows 8, the massive launch budget and technology upgrade cycles mean that corporate enterprise migrations are going to come, and now is the time to position yourself as an in-demand consultant for those projects.
Additional Windows 8 resources on TechRepublic
Will Kelly is a technical and marketing communications writer based in the Washington, DC area. He has written about SMB technology, data center management, project management applications, mobile computing, Microsoft Office, and productivity applications for online and print technology publications. You can reach Will at firstname.lastname@example.org.