Windows

Should Windows 8 be in your future? Part 2

Patrick Gray continues to explore the question enterprises are facing in regard to Windows 8--should you or shouldn't you?

In the first part of this two-part article, I discussed the challenges many organizations that stuck with Windows XP are facing. XP is getting rather long in the tooth from a technology perspective, and while there's rarely a compelling reason to upgrade for an upgrade's sake, XP is struggling to support modern hardware, and slowly being abandoned by the software development community. Furthermore, Microsoft itself (after a couple of reschedules) is ending support of XP in two years. Windows XP is also no longer the computing standard, where anyone who used a mainstream PC in university or at a prior job is more likely to have used Windows 7 than XP.

So, where do we go from here?

With Windows XP nearing the end of its life, enterprises are faced with a difficult question: upgrade to Windows 7 and essentially be a release behind from day one, or make the move to Windows 8, a relatively untested commodity that also represents a dramatic change in the OS. Like most technology questions, the tools you use depend largely on your organization, although I would bias my choice toward Windows 7 rather than Windows 8.

What a difference a number makes

Many commentators have suggested that Windows 7 is what Windows Vista "should have been," and I would tend to agree with that sentiment. Appearance and feature-wise, the two operating systems are nearly identical, yet Windows 7 has ironed out the notorious early-release kinks that plagued Windows Vista. The migration from Windows XP to Windows 7 is fairly smooth and largely beneficial: users should be familiar with the OS from first boot, and it gets your company relatively current in terms of hardware, software, and vendor support.

Windows 8, on the other hand, has two big question marks: how well will the new Metro interface work in an enterprise environment, and how will the OS perform out of the gate? Metro is a significant departure from the Start button and interface elements we're used to, and while an optional, more traditional desktop lurks behind the Metro interface, an XP user will likely be lost on first boot. Furthermore, this release could go the way of Vista, with technical glitches plaguing the OS until the first service pack, or it could be smooth sailing like Windows 7. In any event, combining a very different user interface with questions around how well MS delivers on its promises represents quite a few unknowns.

If your organization delays upgrading until the first service pack release for Windows 8, a fairly standard and reasonable practice, you're looking at a migration that's awfully close to the XP end of life. I see Windows 7 as representing a perfect interim or longer-term solution. It's a well-supported OS at this point, one that doesn't present your users with learning a completely new user interface, while still getting your technology more current. While your users learn the nuances of the Aero interface and the additional capabilities brought by the new OS, you can comfortably wait to see how Windows 8 fares in the marketplace.

Unless your company requires Microsoft's latest and greatest (in which case you're likely already running Windows 7), there's little reason to be the first aboard the Window 8 bandwagon in the enterprise space for your entire fleet of end-user computers. Where mainstream companies should be watching Windows 8 is in the tablet space. The greatest promise I see for the U.S. is the ability to deliver a "split personality" computing experience-where a finger-driven, data consumption model is presented for tablet use, and the same device can quickly deliver a desktop-centric experience when needed, all running on the same hardware and with familiar software.

Rebuilding the upgrade muscle

OS upgrades are like a muscle, and for many companies still on XP that muscle hasn't been exercised in years. Whichever OS ends up being in your company's future, start exercising the "upgrade muscle" immediately. Upgrading small groups of users makes a great deal of sense, and I've seen several corporate IT departments ask for volunteers to upgrade to a test image of a new OS. This gets you a volunteer pool that's likely interested in technology and more willing to put up with any growing pains the new OS presents, especially since they volunteered for the technology in the first place. If you can get a good cross section of users in this pool, you can cover applications and usage scenarios you may have otherwise missed, and also build some good PR for IT since you're providing what this user pool would consider a perk. There are myriad other ways to identify small groups of willing candidates for an OS upgrade to work out all the kinks before rolling out massive waves of upgrades that are beyond the scope of this article, but in all cases, be aware that an OS migration may be technically trivial, but is a high-stakes challenge for IT since an imperfect OS may block access to critical computing functions on a large scale.

While I'd recommend waiting for Windows 8, making a move to 7 sooner rather than later is looking like an increasingly safe bet to get users, application, and technology support current after a decade-long run with Windows XP.

About

Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. He has spent ...

14 comments
jtjames
jtjames

Here is how you can tell what MS is going to do. Think of the way that they can engineer anything that will cost you the max ammount of money over the longest period of time and that is what they will do. Microsoft operates as if they believe their customers are extremely dense sheeple and are thus subject to treatment appropriate for subhumans, morals only apply when dealing with actual people. We are talking about a company who is literally resonsible for many many famlies finacial destruction, they literally have put kids in the street, all to get more money. Just look up what they did to Stacker Corp, although they eventually won, they were the first to do so, but behind them were hundreds of other little companies that were crushed, right along with the famlies who had their lives and dreams and fortunes tied up in those small companies. MS is a heinous company and I hope for a day when they go bankrupt and hopefully Gates could live on the streets, I know it will never happen, but if for no other reason I hope there is a God because he can't escape that judgement, all for more money even though he has more than hr could ever spend, how much do you need that you have to steal a small famlies money from them?

rustgeun
rustgeun

Ever since Windows has first come on the scene it has historically had a problem where they will have one versions that will be extremely popular and work well, being followed by one that is a complete dud. For example Windows 95 was a great seller, followed by Windows 98, 1st edition, which had several serious problems, so it was quickly replaced it with Windows 98 second edition which did very well, then followed by Windows Millenium Edition (and Windows 2000), which were buggy OS's and basically a bomb,( I know that I'm leaving out NT 4, but this was more of a business and not mainstream OS) followed by XP, which is their best one as far as longevity, then Vista, which was another bomb, now Windows 7 which is doing great. So if they keep up with their pattern, windows 8 will probably not be good, but let's hope that they finally break the pattern and have 2 good OS's in a row!!

fhrivers
fhrivers

...at least initially. Their focus should be the consumer market with touch-smart PCs and low-end and ultra tablets. Depending on the success of W8 on the consumer side, that will ease the transition on the enterprise side with the outward pressure that consumerization often exerts on the enterprise. Windows 7 should be the OS of choice until people become familiar with the interface because of their touch-smart PC or tablet at home and ultimately want that environment at work.

cd613
cd613

you skip every other win95 skip win98 use win2000 skip winxp use win vista skip win7 use win8 skip everybody knows that... unless your not it or selling something

peaced
peaced

I think windows 8 will take off and do well in education/corporate, in education where i work certianlly on our road map to migrate users to 8 as we bought HP 2740/60 tablet devices about 15months ago knowing a more touch friendly OS was coming. and so far the consumer preview works well on these devices even runs ok on HP slate 500, and all in 1 Acer touch desktop anyway.... upgrading to 8 without a touch interface still works nice howerver to get the full experience touch is a must. for this reason i belive it will take longer to go into existing market with non touch enabled devices making windows 7 best choice here. I think for anyone buying new PC's (laptop.slate,desktop) now making sure you add touch now with windows 7 so you dont loose out on experience to move to windows 8

Rob.sharp
Rob.sharp

I think Metro can work well for corporations. You have to break down your thought process and put aside your technical indifferences. Sometimes we techies don't like change but its inevitable. I think its safe to say a lot of end-users aren't POWER users. Put a shortcut in front of them and let the clicking begin....throw in mail, office a web browser and you just made their day. Metro will simplify this experience by having quick access from the Stat screen. It's customizable so they can add/remove what they use most and its easy to do. Live tiles can provide up to the minute statistics and information without opening an app. It's time to embrace change and learn to utilize our tools in a more efficient way.

jtjames
jtjames

Win 2000 was basically a business OS as well. Win NT 4 and 4.5 don't really count in my opinion. Although "NT" stands for "New Technology" this was just the old Microsoft theft trick in action. They tried to get Unix to give them their Kernal free but they refused ( just like Stacker Inc and countless others). In this case though because Unix is a big company and can defend itself instead of simply stealing the technology they just used an older out of patent unix Kernal, with smaller companies that cannot defend themselves they simply steal the technology, that's why I say pirate anything microsoft as often as you can, never pay for MS products. How can they ask payment when they steal themselves, and then literally destroy peoples lives by destroying their small businesses, there have been more than a few suicides related to gates destroying peoples famlies.

Fairbs
Fairbs

So what are the reasons behind this? Poor project management? Unrealistic release dates? Too many new features? Communication problems between marketing and development? It seems that they've also gotten into the pattern where they say the next release is going to do X and it's not until the following release that it actually does X. This was especially true as mentioned with Vista and 7. 7 does what MS promised for Vista.

SHANANMB
SHANANMB

Windows 1.0 Windows 2.0 Windows 3.0 Windows 3.1 Windows for Workgroups 3.11 MS BOB :) Windows 98SE Windows ME Win2000 was a server ed so leave that one out. or separate list for server versions.

blarman
blarman

The word is "lose" not "loose". You lose your car keys, your job, etc. You loosen a knot, a belt, etc.

blarman
blarman

I live in a rural community where even getting DSL and/or cable Internet for our field offices is limited. We don't particularly want all the little gadgets and gizmos continually taking up our precious 1 Mb of bandwidth, and that's what I keep seeing with Windows 8. Just like every successive release of Windows, it takes up more resources, only this time it's bandwidth. And what about on phones, where you have to pay for the data plans? I REALLY don't need every extraneous app phoning home for updates every 5 minutes and driving up the cost of use of the device! Not interested.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Sure, we can make it work, but where's the payoff? As to making a user's day, many of mine dislike the disruption of getting an new system. I suspect it will be a couple of years before live tiles will provide updates on business data, especially for shops that don't have an internal app development team.

jtjames
jtjames

Microsoft intentionally releases buggie crappie releases in between their good releases. That way they maximize their profits because you buy the next, good release, far faster than you ordinarily would have. This is kind of like what the Tabbacco companies do when they put chemicals in their tabbacco that makes the cigerettes burn faster and not go out, natural tabbacco will go out if sat in an ashtrey whereas a marlboro will burn all the way to the filter. The faster the thing burns the more you buy, same kind of theory. My friend works for them, MS, and told me long ago that they intentionally release products that are buggie and inferior, what are you really going to do about it anyway? Get mad and then go out and buy the next release because most people won't go to the effort to learn Linux and get off the MS train, even though Linux if a far superior OS far more stable and always has been. Whats more it's basically free and has the same capabilities as MS and with Open Office GL offers the exact same capabilities as Office, even looks identical, all with requireing far less resources. I pray for the day that MS goes bankrupt because suddenly the world wakes up and realizes that they don't have to purchase a product from a company that steals, harms other people, treats their own customers like they could care less about them, steals from their own customers by knowingly and intentionally creating and releaseing products that are "broken" in essance-that is theft no matter how you look at it, but the thing is I really don't think the world is smart enough, we live in a "Sheeple" world and the sheeple will continue on with MS even though they know they are getting ripped off, stamping thier feet and getting REALLY mad DARNIT! on thier way to buy more MS products.

danbi
danbi

It seems, like WinRT is something Microsoft has purchased from someone and they are trying to figure out how to use it. One example, security: WinRT is supposed to finally bring Windows up to date on security. That is, not let one application access other application's resources etc. This of course breaks a lot of old stuff and, most of all, requires new programming paradigms -- you can't do with the old programming style - at all. Now, it seems that even the Microsoft-internal programmers can't code in WinRT. To overcome this, Microsoft has "fixed" WinRT, so that an application can load and link legacy Win32 DLLs.. Great? Ooops!! What happened with the better security mode? Say, an attacker cannot penetrate the WinRT applications, but what stops them from attacking the win32 DLL? Will Windows 8 support the absurd "API servers" that in fact were just a collection of old DLLs that some program installed on your system. You could end up with gigabytes and gigabytes of almost identical DLLs, including older versions that contain bugs. About the same, what Microsoft did when they incorporated the otherwise great NT kernel into their "windows" universe.