Windows

Five reasons to take a pass on Windows 8

Scott Lowe talks about some of the drawbacks of Windows 8 that might make it a poor bet for the enterprise.

Like a great many others, I've been watching the Windows 8 development process to see where Microsoft decides to take things on the desktop.  It's well-known that Microsoft needs to do something radical to battle Apple on the consumer front and Google on the smartphone front.  At the same time, the company needs to update the Windows desktop operating system in ways that enable the company to remain relevant in business.

No Start menu

I've seen companies do some really dumb things in my time in the IT field, but this one really takes the case.  In fact, I'd classify it in the "really, really stupid" category.  As is evidenced in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, Microsoft has pulled the Start button off the legacy interface, adding massive complexity to any rollout that might take place with Windows 8 in the corporate environment.

When the company overhauled Office with the Office 2007 release, I was generally supportive and saw value in the direction.  This time, however, Microsoft is forcing a directional change that is going to be really bad for the company.  Corporate users will shun a move away from the rock solid Windows 7 platform with such radical - and seemingly unnecessary - changes to what has been a relatively consistent interface.

It's obvious that Microsoft wants to take on Apple with the addition of the Metro UI to the operating system; the UI has been a success in Windows Phone 7.  It's also obvious that, with Windows 8, Microsoft intends to provide a significant consumer focus and extend the Windows family across all device form factors, from phones, to tablets to PCs and maybe more.  However, I fail to understand why that means that an extremely familiar experience needs to be completed removed.

Massive training need

The transition from Windows 2000 to Windows XP to Windows Vista to Windows 7 has required some end-user training, but not much; each successive version of Windows was evolutionary making it relatively simple to upgrade.

Remembering that the primary business of most businesses in not technology, this has been a good trend; companies want to focus on their business, not on constant training due to Windows upgrades.

When Windows 8 is released, I predict an end to this semi-seamless upgrade process, which will force business to either skip Windows 8 or provide significant training for users, thus turning more than necessary attention to the mechanics of the business rather than on the business itself.

Fragmented ecosystem

A common experience across all form factors is a laudable goal.  However, there is further evidence that Microsoft is eschewing businesses in favor of the consumer with Windows 8.  The current rumor is that ARM-based Windows 8 systems will be unable to join Active Directory domains.

First of all, it's not revolutionary that Microsoft is extending Windows support beyond the Intel- and AMD-dominated x86 world; for those that have been in IT for a while will remember that the original Windows NT ran on a variety of other platforms, including Alpha, MIPS and PowerPC.

What is revolutionary is Microsoft's inability or unwillingness to allow ARM-based devices to join Active Directory domains.  This means that companies facing pending BYOD initiatives won't get any relief from Microsoft, either.  All of the tools that you use to manage your current corporate Windows environment will be 100% ineffective with many Windows 8 devices.

I do believe that, via BYOD initiatives, companies will have to provide some support for Windows 8 devices, but it appears as if Windows 8 will do nothing to incentivize companies to adopt the product.

Apple owns the tablet space

It's apparent that Apple currently owns most of the tablet space.  Although there are contenders out there, the iPad is still the tablet to rule them all.  This is obviously the market that Microsoft is targeting with Windows 8.  Microsoft's work toward providing a common user experience across all form factors is a response to Apple's dominance.  The phrase "post-PC era," which I believe to be an overstated reality, is one that Microsoft is clearly taking to heart.

Given this mobile and touch focus that Microsoft is emphasizing in Windows 8, the corporate desktop seems to be an afterthought.

(See also Is Windows 8 dissing PCs?)

Hardware outlay

Today's PCs are so powerful that companies don't necessarily have to upgrade hardware to move to newer versions of Windows.  Heck, Windows 7 treats hardware much better than Windows Vista did!  With Windows 8, in order to take advantage of what Microsoft considers compelling functionality - primarily, the touch interface - companies will be forced to upgrade hardware components.  The vast majority of monitors on people's desktops today are not touch-enabled.

I'm not clear on what the business benefit is for businesses to throw away what may be working display devices in favor of touch screens.  Maybe, over time, it will become clear as to what business benefits are wrought from touch-enabled displays.

Summary

It's certain that big changes are coming to Windows 8, but it's also clear that the benefits to business are very unclear.  Based on what we've seen from the consumer preview and previous preview releases, there appear to be many decisions that have been made that may make it undesirable to partake when the product is ultimately released.

About

Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

32 comments
LanceJZ
LanceJZ

All of these are either not true, or irrelevant to reality. Based on repeated third hand information at best. As a professional myself, I've been using Windows 8 sense it went public, and got it the day it came out. It adds performance in both hardware, and productivity in every way. With no extra learning needed. It took me about one hour to get used to the new look, and layout. Nothing is fundamentally different in its operation. There is no fragmentation what so ever. Let me know if you find any real reasons to take a pass.

LFBAdmin
LFBAdmin

It seems Microsoft is trying to compete way too hard. The Desktop is something that is dear to millions of users. Why would you radically change a familiar feature, add complexity, and requiring a larger learning curve than your previous products? You're a delusional bafoon! How hard is it to watch what successful companies do and mimic or improve on current technology. As MikeGall said above, no one wants a touch interface for production. Just put a poll out and see real people responses in corporate environments. Even if this release is geared toward the end user, its a sorry mistake. Even if you give copies of this OS away, it won't gain as much momentum to warrant good sales. This will be like another Windows Vista sitting on shelves begging to be bought. I know organizations still using Windows XP, and quite comfortable with keeping their environment stable and familiar to employees. I just wonder why release something that doesn't have majority business vote, especially across a broad platform. I believe every platform should have its own benefits and perks, but never a blend across all platforms to look and feel the same. Society has come a long way to accept technology. Corporate giants in conjunction with governments have taken away many basic abilities of populations. Many children can no longer read and write properly, yet continue to the next levels of education. This is one such technology influencing this nonsense. I for one am not too pleased with it, but must learn it considering my profession.

SHOCK77777
SHOCK77777

WIN 8 is really for the tablets and smartphones, not the desktop PC. For one you have to have a special monitor to use the touch feature. Then if you don't have a special monitor you could go buy one. EXPENSIVE. or perhaps you could go buy the Logitech designed mice or mousepads that work with it, However if you do that then you have to completely learn to do things differently than you have always done. Like instead of using one finger for an operation, depending on what you want to do you have to use two fingers or three fingers, sliding them against the mousepad to slide the screen up/down or side to side. Hopefully you have enough fingers or remember which ones or how many to use for what function when you have 20 other things on your mind at once. I also believe not having the start button and the simplicity of it is going to really turn people off.

golddust
golddust

Like the long life of XP, Windows 7 is going to be around in use for a very long time. Getting used to Windows 8 is going to turn off a lot of users, and I foresee many purchasers of new computers looking to turn back their pcs to Windows 7 - much in the way Vista users put back their XP operating systems. I'm learning Windows 8 as a computer club instructor, but I'm leery about how many of our 800 members are going to embrace it - time will tell.

davesmall
davesmall

Windows 8 is not a technical advance. It is Microsoft's attempt to defend their Windows franchise while moving into the tablet space. They're attempting to make an all-purpose operating system that world well on touch screen tablets and traditional PCs. Good luck with that. A screwdriver is a great invention. So is a hammer. I also like owning an electric drill. But please don't try to sell me a combo screwdriver, hammer, drill. I know it is possible to design such a combo device. I also know that the tradeoffs required are going to make it less than ideal. Microsoft is playing catch-up with Apple for several years now. This is not going to do the trick. Better to jump ship and get on the Apple band wagon now than to keep pumping money into a losing proposition.

kljacob
kljacob

When many companies yet to upgrade to Windows 7, Windows 8 is not going to be for Business since it is main focus on Touch.

sarai1313
sarai1313

not for enterprize do even know what you are reading .oh thats right you did not read anything put out on how it works by microsoft did you? .because they have inproved it for enterprize so all thouse working in I.T. can sit on there ass and pertend they prefrom majic for their bosses keeping their systems running. why not read be for shooting off your mouth soctt.

abu_belal
abu_belal

I agree with you about the start button it is a dump move. but about training it is not need that much of training after you skip the intro screen it still Microsoft windows. and bout apple I see that android take a good position in market share now and market can accept another products from another vendors.

MikeGall
MikeGall

Great for a gadget you are doing a very brief interaction with: picking a play list, or video to view say but horrible for productivity. For a starters: hate typing all day? Can you imagine having to hold your arm up all day to interact with your computer? Or the alternative stare down at your desk all day. Heck if that was the solution you'd end up always looking at the screen at an angle automatically shrinking the apparent size of the screen and distorting the aspect ratio. Tablets are probably great for meetings and brief things like checking email. But true sit down and get things done? Not so much. So why would you want to have to interact in a touch manner with your computer each time you want to switch between apps? MS should have done what App did for the mac, create a second desktop that has the apps but keep the interaction mouse/keyboard based on the desktop and have touch for tablet and phone.

lastchip
lastchip

Windows 8, just like Apple or Ubuntu's unity, is trying to be all things to all people. It doesn't work in the corporate environment. Touch screens across corporations are decades away, if they ever implement them at all. The be-all and end-all is productivity and when you can produce a touch screen that is faster to use than a keyboard, just maybe you'll see some traction. The only way I see the possibility of wide usage of touch screens in corporations, (excepting certain applications), is if voice recognition ever becomes so good, you can simply speak your messages, or control the machine via voice. That isn't going to be any time soon, particularly across different languages and dialects. As corporations are wedded to Microsoft, (though I still fail to understand why), I see Windows 7 as being the XP of the future, with corporations gradually changing to 7 and hanging on to it for as long as is possible. If you're facing Windows 8 (as it is at present), there is a strong argument, given the amount of change and training required, to switch platforms totally to a new platform. SuSE for example, (a not very well documented example in the USA), can boast The University of New Mexico and The Belgian Ministry of Justice as just two such organisations that have benefited from this approach and claimed major savings. SuSE, like Redhat, offers enterprise level support, so the often quoted argument about no support doesn't hold true. If you're looking at significant change, then you may as well choose the cheapest option that is compatible with your objectives. Microsoft should tread very carefully. Alienating your major user base is never a wise move.

Cynyster
Cynyster

I have been testing the consumer release since it came out. There is a whole lot I love about the new release but I have to say they are all overshadowed by one core problem. Usability. (what is usable on a touch device is most likely difficult on a desktop) Microsoft has gone from a platform that made an effort to make things easy to find to hiding core features. Metro hides things in hot spots edges and corners. and makes the absolute worst use of the desktop with multiple version of your favorite applications. It is interesting that they would do this when they added a ribbon to windows explorer (effectively UN-hiding menus) and making the task manager an absolute dream to use. While some would say the loss of the start button is no big deal. I will have to disagree vehemently. As an application launcher you would be hard pressed to find better in any OS

weskam
weskam

Microsoft needs Windows 8 to be a success. The Metro interface is designed to work on BOTH desktops AND mobile devices - at least in theory. Microsoft has been lagging in the mobile market so they need Win8 to be a success. Win8 is Microsoft's only chance to get ahead in the mobile market. If they can get Win8 to be accepted, then they can corner the business mobile applications market. Other companies producing mobile apps are aimed at the consumer market, but not many are focusing on the business market. If Microsoft can get a hold of the business app market and integrate it seamlessly with their desktop applications, it will make a big difference for them.

Skruis
Skruis

regardless of whether or not you're a fan of the Metro style, it is a good "touch" interface and the distinction between it and Android or iOS really only come down to your grahpical preference. From a functionality standpoint, each has their own merits. Regardless of that, Windows 7 is a solid operating system and should continue to be the primary operating system on the enterprise PC for a number of reasons but to generalize and say that Windows 8 has NO place in enterprise is wrong also for a number of reasons. It does have a place and that place is for the non-standard employee such as management, sales or any other primarily mobile user that prefers to have a slate rather than a laptop and the reason for that is because those users can continue to use Windows 8 to run their required desktop applications natively in a docked mode when needed or on the go when required while also giving them the touch interface for web, email, messaging and reading tasks "on the go". It may not be the "best" of both worlds but it is "both" worlds on a single device. That being said, are there changes that can be made to improve the OS? Obviously. This is after all a preview, not the final version and even still, Windows 9 will continue to improve on the features being introduced just as Microsoft has done in the past with this leapfrog cycle of theirs. So while I'm not saying that Windows 8 is perfect, I am saying that there is a place in the enterprise where Windows 8 presents itself as a worthwhile solution.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Those who agree with you to six decimal places; and those who'll say you are stuck in the past, unwilling to accept the benefits and 'opportunities' of this or any other new OS. I'm in the first camp, by the way. I think the major mistake lies in MS's attempt to unify the interface across all platforms, regardless of whether that shoe fits all feet / paws / hooves / fins. The more I look at W8, the less I consider the minimal benefits worth the learning curve of deploying it on a desktop or laptop. I wasn't planning on upgrading my home computer this year, but I may when vendors start phasing out W7 units. Where the heck is that new file system MS has been promising us for over a decade?????

jfuller05
jfuller05

I'll agree with your overall message that windows 8 is not a upgrade in the best interest of businesses because of 1) deep training will be needed and 2) hardware changes. Another thing, I don't understand *why* Microsoft had to remove the start button and start button features from the desktop mode in Windows 8. Is it a move on their part to force us to use the metro UI? Or did they think we would actually like the start button and features removed? Either way, I know we will not upgrade to Windows 8 if the consumer preview remains unchanged in the transition to final product.

denbo68
denbo68

I agree I cannot stand the interface. this might be ok for a tablet but as a desktop it is a step backwards. Change... for change's sake... isn't a good thing

Deacon336
Deacon336

@fiosdave I agree. I put the release preview on a 2007 era notebook that came with XP. I was amazed at just how much more responsive the PC was with Windows 8. For $40 going forward I can make this notebook I had nearly discarded a valuable asset for a while longer. That's a very inexpensive makeover.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Rabbit chow could be on sale for forty cents a ton, but a bargain you don't need isn't a bargain.

Info Dave
Info Dave

Apple chose to create two OSs, OS X and iOS, Microsoft wants everything under one roof with Windows. The biggest problem I see is that Microsoft is cramming the Modern UI (Metro) down our collective throats. Windows RT is not ready. It's a version 1 product. It has limited functionality for system maintenance. If I were Microsoft I'd release Windows 8 pretty much like Windows 7, but oh by the way, here's a button to the Modern UI you're going to see on our tablets and phones. Start playing with it. One day soon the Modern UI will be the only UI you need, but we're not quite ready, and we want to make sure that every customer and organization can make the transition at their own pace. That's how I'd do it.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Let me know when there's an AutoCAD edition for Mac, along with all those other Windows-specific apps that don't exist in Apple versions.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I learned a lot from your post, especially when combined with your profile.

techrepublic
techrepublic

Is it? It is designed for touch devices, desktops are an "inconvenient truth". A friend of mine has a touch Asus desktop. After playing with touch aspects of the new PC on the first day he never used touch again. The screen and applications worked better with mouse and keyboard. Metro apps will be designed for touch, not the mouse and keyboard. They will be harder to use Metro apps on the desktop than "Classic Windows" applications. The fact that MS is ignoring this truth is a real concern - what else is MS considering?

MikeGall
MikeGall

I work at a hospital and we have self-checkin kiosks for patients. Admittedly we'd probably still rely on one app running that the customer interacts with but still I can see cases were a company might want to give basic computer access to people coming in with pre-selected options. Say a library: you can use our book search system, click something else to see if another library has it, and click something else to scan your books out yourself. Could all be one app but with something simple like a metro style start page you could have different apps and a graphical display guiding your customers to click the right thing depending on what they want to do.

seanferd
seanferd

is where we got Libraries.

MikeGall
MikeGall

Well the present promise is that the server addition will have it when it ships and then it will likely get added to Win 8 as a service pack. That might/probably will mean that you'll have to have an NTFS boot partition but will be able to have other partitions using the new file system.

MikeGall
MikeGall

I installed the developer preview (admittedly an early release) but found it unusable with a keyboard and mouse. If I was trying to open a program that wasn't on the visible area for the start page and had to scroll to the right it took several tries to get it to recognize my click drag right/left as wanting to see more stuff. Even say that works perfectly: who the heck wants to click drag left, look for the app, click on it when at the moment you can just windows key + a couple letters and enter? I have about 50 applications installed on my development computer at work and it is a pain if I have to go through the start menu list manually let alone having to drag around big icons representing the apps. I'm sorry not everyone using a computer is playing Angry Birds and selecting apps from a list of 10 on their phone.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

Zorin OS Linux - same look as your XP is available in it? It costs less than Win 8 upgrade and a higher level or performance as well.

ws3d
ws3d

I agree. I always wondered why MS chose to try to shoehorn a desktop OS into the same OS as the tablet/phone. Make a version, like RT for the phones and tablets. Make regular and Pro versions more desktop/laptop friendly. Keep touch enabled on the desktop/laptop version and make the UI resemble Win 7. That would have made more sense. And each version could be tweaked to do what it does best without carrying a lot of extra code around with it. I just don't understand their thinking.

seanferd
seanferd

I think this is what MS wants - to sell you the hardware and software.

jfuller05
jfuller05

I don't mind the metro UI, but that doesn't mean I want the start button and all that goes with it gone out of my windows desktop mode. I would like to be able to go from one to the other or even disable the metro UI altogether, though I know I wouldn't do that because I do like the metro UI. However, I don't like Microsoft completely removing the essential feature of the desktop mode, i.e., start button. I use it for a lot functions during the work day on my PC and other PCs I service. It's an excellent function and to remove it is bizarre. I don't understand why it's removed aside from forcing us to use metro. [i] I'm sorry not everyone using a computer is playing Angry Birds and selecting apps from a list of 10 on their phone. [/i] :D So true. :)

MikeGall
MikeGall

Usability testing. Yeah it sucks. But the majority of users will pound on the start button when ever they want to start doing something including I guess go to metro. Oh and for the start menu going away thing: I wouldn't mind as long as the windows key would popup a similar window for the search. I hardly ever need the menus in the start menu any more just "Win + couple keystrokes" maybe tab a couple times and enter. I can't think of a time in the last month where that hasn't worked for me. Including disk defragment: "win + defr" first option on the list I think. Fantastic that it exposes sub menu content that easily that is what I'll miss, not a list of my apps. There was a post by Raymond Chen tangentally related to this about the 3.1->95 thing. People were confused why they didn't have a "shutdown" button on the taskbar. Why you had to click start to click "Shutdown" for example. It turns out that during usability testing even if they had a shutdown button if they told a new user "okay now shutdown the computer" they'd click the start button not the shutdown button (a very large percentage like 80%). So they just removed the shutdown button since screen realestate is expensive. That said it points out a problem with usability testing: the product was new to people. What someone instictively does when they first see something is important, but is completely different from what someone will do once they are familiar with the system. You can't make it too hard for the user to start going but I think you also need to either have customization or multiple paths to the same thing so that the experienced user can get around quickly (keyboard shortcuts, context menus etc).

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