Windows 8

What to tell your clients about Windows 8

When your clients should adopt Windows 8 depends on the kind of clients you serve. Chip Camden recommends testing the Release Preview and forming a rollout plan now.

Microsoft recently made the Windows 8 Release Preview available for download. We can probably expect to see Windows 8 released in time to start appearing on new systems before the end of the year. This means that unless you're in the enviable position of supporting only non-Microsoft systems, you'd better start thinking about how Windows 8 will affect your clients. If you haven't already, you should download the release preview and start playing with it to see what you can expect.

One question for which you should start seeking an answer is: when should your clients adopt Windows 8, if at all? Some businesses are still congratulating themselves for skipping Windows Vista and going directly from Windows XP to Windows 7. Windows 8 is on the wrong side of the every-other-release-sucks trend. While we could debate the accuracy of that trend (depending on how you number them), the historical percentage of problematic upgrades has nevertheless been about 50% at best. Hopefully, Microsoft won't continue that trend, but if it does, then it might be advisable to avoid Windows 8 altogether.

However, it also depends on what kind of clients you serve. End users can choose not to bother with an upgrade as long as they can find adequate support. My clients, though, are software vendors. If they choose not to support a new version of Windows, they're probably choosing to lose a significant number of customers. They must not only support each new version, they must also support it early -- ideally as soon as new systems begin shipping with it. Those clients should be looking at the release preview right now.

Problems to expect in Windows 8

For business users, application compatibility is probably the first concern. Each new version of Windows changes some aspect of application behavior, often in ways that Microsoft didn't foresee to be fatal or render the application unusable. Sometimes that's the programmer's fault -- relying on undocumented behavior after figuring things out experimentally, only to have that behavior pulled out from under them in the next version. Other times, Microsoft has changed documented behavior and forced developers to modify their code.

Windows 8 also includes a new version (4.5) of the .NET Framework. Steve Ives reports that he has already observed problems running existing .NET applications against this version. If your client is a software vendor, they'll need to plan for extensive testing under Windows 8 and the new framework before they claim to support it. End users will want to test the applications they use in the manner in which they use them before upgrading.

Hardware requirements

The hardware requirements for Windows 8 aren't much greater than for Windows 7, and recently purchased machines should qualify. Note though, that for applications that use the new Metro interface, they'll need at least 1024x768 resolution.

Metro

Speaking of Metro, users will need to get used to this new UI. Existing applications may still look like they did on previous versions of Windows, but launching them will be different. Users who have memorized keyboard shortcuts for navigating the Start Menu will have to learn new muscle memory, although a lot of the other shortcuts remain the same.

Software vendors who intend to support Windows 8 should plan to rethink their user experience. They should evaluate whether the Metro interface would be useful and/or desirable. If so, they're looking at a complete redesign and rewrite of the UI, or at least the portions that need to go to Metro. At minimum, they should revisit all of their Start Menu entries to determine how best to make these options available to end users.

Test and plan now

Unlike the transition from Vista to Windows 7, Windows 8 changes the user experience and the application environment in significant ways. Don't just assume that everything's going to work. Start testing with the release preview, and form a plan for how you're going to roll out any changes that you'll need. Discuss these in detail with your clients before they (or their customers) start buying new systems with Windows 8 already installed.

Windows 8 Release Preview screenshot featured was taken by TechRepublic's Mark Kaelin.

More Windows 8 coverage on TechRepublic

About

Chip Camden has been programming since 1978, and he's still not done. An independent consultant since 1991, Chip specializes in software development tools, languages, and migration to new technology. Besides writing for TechRepublic's IT Consultant b...

22 comments
andrew232006
andrew232006

I didn't like Vista. The system requirements were outrageous. It was buggy. And the UAC drove me nuts until I turned it off. I'm not expecting 8 to be bad because 7 was good. I'm expecting 8 to be bad because it is a dramatic shift and whenever Microsoft makes large changes, they spent the next 3 years fixing things.

cybershooters
cybershooters

I get tired of people saying Vista was a bad OS, I don't think it was. There was the "new OS" learning curve, e.g. drivers and whatnot not working that all OSes have, but I think it was really a victim of that because XP was the first OS a lot of late adopters used and they weren't used to switching to a new OS. Yes Windows 7 has better memory handling and boots up quicker, but the UI in Windows 7 I don't think is better than Vista, in many ways it is worse imo. Windows 8 is bad because it is bad on its own merits, not because it is the odd one out. Look at the build number - 6.2.8400. Vista was 6, 7 was 6.1. Really Windows 8 is mainly about having a new UI for Windows Vista/7. There are a few other fiddly new bits in it like .NET Framework 4.5, Windows to Go, etc. but the UI is the crux of it. If you don't like the UI, don't use it. Simple as that really.

Developr
Developr

Although I have yet to do an in-depth evaluation of W8, from where I sit, having upgraded more than 40 XP systems to W7, there is nothing in W8 (other than more problems) that would justify a move from W7 to W8 for business users (which is all I care about). And I expect that the next upgrades for my clients will come in the form of purchasing new systems with W9 installed. W8 reminds me so much of the disaster caused by the release of Vista!

reisen55
reisen55

There is no rational explanation for Windows 8 to start with when I am still migrating clients from XP to Windows 7, and even that is a burden in this most awful of economies where my clients are penny pinchers by the dozen right now. There is NOTHING in Windows 8 to make it a compelling upgrade from 7, which is wonderful unto itself. There is not even a public release of windows 8 yet and when has Microsoft botched a public release? Can we remember Vista? I feel Windows 8 is going to be another Vista and without even a service pack yet? This is madness. Microsoft is now re-investing the OS wheel every 2 years and for no good reason at all. XP ran a good life and will quietly die in about 2 more years. Windows Vista was dead on arrival. Windows 7 is wonderful and quite solid, give it 5 more years. There is nothing compelling in Windows 8 that I have seen to drive any upgrade all. Chip - you're wrong on this one, no rollout plan NOW and let the thing stabilize first.

spawnywhippet
spawnywhippet

I have given 11 users a demo system with the Win8 preinstalled for a week to get feedback on the user interface and productivity. After a quick introduction into the more un-intuitive parts of Windows 8 (eg how to shut down, get back to the desktop, get out of a full screen app, launching apps by just typing their name etc), I left them to it. Now the results came back: - 100% hated it and refuse to use it again - a couple threated me with physical violence if we roll Metro out to the desktop (only half jokingly). - Productivity plummeted, people were taking a lot longer to complete tasks as they couldn't multi-task as effectively with full screen apps. In 3 cases, users insisted they used their own laptops during the week as they had critical work to complete and could not do it in time on Win8. - People were very confused by the lack of menus and the lack of a start button. - People were still struggling with the shut down process even after 5 days of using it. - The Metro desktop was a confused mess when people had installed all their commonly used apps. - Computers ran slower on Win 8 than Win 7. - Nobody used the Metro tiles at all as they were permanently hidden behind apps. We were requested to remove the live tiles from the desktop to try and speed up the machines. - By day 5 (Friday), 100% of users avoided Metro completely and always used the classic desktop. Only one user tried to use Metro beyond day 3, and then he stopped and went back to classic desktop. - No users found the touch interface useful in the desktop environment, as they found it unergonomic and not precise enough to operate a vertical desktop touchscreen at arms length for more than a couple of minutes. I still have dual boot on my laptop, but I will not be upgrading to Win8.

rob
rob

I'm sure that Microsoft will offer the option to install Windows 7 if one purchases a system with Windows 8 pre-installed.

AudeKhatru
AudeKhatru

Stupid Comments. Finally, a Windows 8 article that isn't about why it is stupid or why it will fail. Just what I was asking for in the comments to question from Jason Hiner. Thank you. Windows 8 is almost here, and Metro is the future. I am not sure it is a good or bad future at this point, but based on the comments, I doubt any of the commenters...except maybe paul.simmons@...has used Windows 8 on a non-touch system for more than an hour. I have had it installed on my XPS M1530 since the day the Consumer Preview was released. I cannot say that I am 100% thrilled with it, and there are more than a few annoying things, but I need to know it so that I can help people with transitioning to it. Fortunately, at work, we are just getting ready to go to Windows 7, so it will be awhile before Windows 8 is even on the horizon. I've got plenty of time to learn it, and overall I am not looking forward to a Windows 8...or 9 (you do understand that 9 will still be Metro, right?) transition at work, but then again some of our users should have stone tablets and chisels. Give me more of this.

paul.simmons
paul.simmons

What if the touch interface takes off and users demand that all applications be designed to work on smart phone, tablet, new touch screen laptop, new desktop screen? It could be the biggest single OS change by leaps and bounds because it might make both hardware and application interfaces obsolete and it could come fast. Will it happen? Do not know. I would not make a bet against it, maybe a bet on when or if it will take a second version. Tech Republic should take a poll of if and when. That the readers of this site do or do not like 8 is not all that important. A few killer or business-required applications and it is game over. That said, there is no reason to rush anything. My suggestion is to tell others that we will have to wait and see if it turns out to be useful.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

use it for your phone or tablet if they have touch screens, and don't even think about going near it for a desktop or notebook unless you have a touch screen and want to be slow to use the computer.

abbos
abbos

If they want to use it for a mobile device only they can choose what they like. If they are running a pc i telll them to skip Windows 8 and see what Windows 9 brings. I also tell them that when they decide to use W8 on their desktop i am not there for support.

Gisabun
Gisabun

Told friends, family, bums on the street, pimps, muggers and everyone else to stick with Windows 7. If you have Windows XP, buy a Windows 7 system now [or before October]. Otherwise you will be stuck with Windows 8 when Windows XP support dies.

Dyalect
Dyalect

unless you have a high powered tablet and want to play. there is no reason to move off of w7. just not enough there in 8 to justify upgrading.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

... and drivers weren't the only problem. It crashed on me regularly, and it was dog slow even on the fastest hardware.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

I did say that not installing Windows 8 at all is one option. Consultants should evaluate Windows 8 now and start planning for it -- even if the plan ends up being "skip it."

abbos
abbos

Well, i did use W8 in my virtual machine for a few days. I quitted Facebook and dont have Twitter. Never gonna use it either. I use my desktop for administration, server-management, work and online gaming. Most of the time i have at least 5 windows open on my 2 screens. W8 is just not made for the desktop where you do a little more then only using it as a social-life-replacement-multimedia machine. So, i skip 8 and probably 9. As long as 7 is supported no problem. In the meantime I am teaching myself to learn to work with Linux so i can switch the moment MS decides Metro UI is the GUI of the future.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Believe it or not, I think Microsoft is actually showing some vision here in recognizing that the future of the computer/pad/phone will be in one interface. But I think they're pushing that button (or maybe I should say, "touching that panel") a little bit too soon. Most business applications are not suited to the Metro interface today, and will require a lot of rethinking before they will be -- if that even makes sense at all.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Just like the mouse "took off" after the introduction of the Mac and then Windows, touch will revolutionize UI to some degree. But just as the mouse didn't render all text input obsolete, neither will touch. The big question is where will it be appropriate for business use, versus where will marketeers want to demo it?

Anita Y. Mathis
Anita Y. Mathis

No crashing problems. Few driver problems. Required too much disk space.