Windows 8

Why Windows 8 won't be an immediate enterprise slam dunk

Scott Lowe is a big fan of Microsoft, but he believes that with Windows 8, the company is about to commit its biggest blunder in years.

I know that there is a ton of material about Windows 8 hitting the intertubes these days, but please brace yourself for one more.  In this blog, I'm going to discuss why I believe that Windows 8 faces a much more significant challenge for Microsoft in the enterprise space than Windows 7.  While I believe that there are some fantastic new features coming from Redmond, there are some factors that will keep Windows 8 from hitting corporate desktops, at least for a while.

Read this blog while keeping in mind that I'm a fan of Microsoft, but believe that the company is about to commit its biggest blunder in years.

The good

As I mentioned, there's a lot of good stuff coming in Windows 8.  For example, Windows 8 will add, among many other features:

  • Storage Spaces. My colleague Derek Schauland did a great job of explaining this feature here.
  • Hyper-V on the client. Later in this article, I'm going to discuss an issue that I believe will hurt enterprise Windows 8 deployments. But, by having Hyper-V on the client, organizations could consider a migration to Windows 8 and deploy virtual machines running Windows 7. Of course, this adds all kinds of complexity and is not desirable, but... it's just an idea!
  • SMB 3.0. Rather than calling the new Server Message Block (SMB) protocol version 2.2 as was originally planned, Microsoft packed so much new capability into this feature that they gave it a major version bump, too, and with good reason. For example, SMB 3.0 contains a new feature known as SMB multichannel. This allows the system to use multiple network channels, increasing overall throughout and adding fault tolerance to the environment. This is just one improvement made to SMB, but it's a big one and
  • Easy Restore. The new refresh capabilities in Windows 8 make it easy for users to return their PC to a blank slate, clear of the cruft that builds up over time.
  • Windows To Go. Now, users can carry their Windows 8 desktops with them in their pocket on a flash drive. They can plug this flash drive into a Windows 7 or Windows 8 computer elsewhere and use the desktop that is provisioned in the Windows To Go environment. I will be writing about Windows To Go in a future post.

These are just some of the fantastic new features that have direct positive benefits for the enterprise, but I believe that they will be overshadowed by Windows 8's massive usability issue.

New challenges

However, when compared to previous versions of Windows, I don't see Windows 8 as having the enterprise uptake that has been enjoyed by some previous versions and I see some Windows 8 features actively working against Microsoft in the enterprise with this latest edition.  In fact, some of these issues might even override the good features that are coming with Windows 8.

  • Metro is a major paradigm shift. Metro is going to be fantastic for the coming wave of Windows 8-powered tablets, but forcing it on enterprise users is a paradigm shift that is going to negatively affect business uptake. I believe as people begin to acquire Windows 8 devices in their personal lives that Windows 8 will become more palatable for the enterprise, but with enterprise users often seriously adverse to change, Metro is going to throw them for a loop. After all, Metro has no obvious way to, for example, close an application and the controls to which people have become accustomed are long gone. Of course, this assumes that vendors actually create Metro apps. Initially, that will be a very slow process. I expect that Microsoft might actually want to make the end user experience painful to push vendors to request Metro apps, but this doesn't seem like a great solution at present, particularly when Metro and Explorer could be integrated well.
  • Removal of Start menu. This one I simply cannot figure out. Microsoft has removed the Start button. This will force users to use the Windows key on the keyboard to open the new Start screen. I believe that this will cause no end to grief in enterprise environments. Microsoft has stubbornly insisted that the Start button has no place in their future landscape, but I believe that they're categorically incorrect. Leaving the Start menu on the legacy desktop seems to me to be something that would provide a bit of comfort in moving to the new platform and would also leave a lot of corporate documentation intact. Personally, I see this is Windows 8's most significant flaw.
  • Windows 7 was a hit before it was released. At this point in Windows 7's development cycle, it was already a hit. Windows 8, on the other hand, is receiving a lukewarm reception because of some of the design decisions that Microsoft has made. While the company is receiving accolades for some under the hood features and for Windows Server 2012, which shares the same codebase but is targeted at the data center, the end user experience is leaving frustration as people adjust to programs that can't be quit (Metro again), a Start screen that requires a keyboard press and other challenges. In this sense, I see major potential for Windows 8 to be dismissed as "Vista 2", which would be unfortunate.
  • Windows 7 is still being deployed. Estimates are that as many as 2/3 of organizations are still in the midst of their Windows 7 deployments. Will these same organizations halt these plans and immediately jump on Windows 8? I doubt it. Instead, I see a very, very long life ahead for Windows 7 as organizations come to grips with the decisions that have been made with Windows 8 and begin compatibility testing with the new operating system.

I believe that the biggest challenges for Windows 8 are going to be usability and the momentum already enjoyed by Windows 7.  Given Microsoft's desire to bring the Windows 8 system to a wide variety of devices, I fully understand the need to incorporate an interface that is touch-friendly, but it seems that this is being done at the expense of a massive installed base.

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...

15 comments
techrepublic
techrepublic

There are a lot of people who, like me, don't always upgrade to the newest version of software. A lot of people and organizations are still using Windows XP, myself included. I was still using Windows 2000 three years ago. In all fairness, I have not seen Windows 8 myself, but I am weary of continual upgrades just for the sake of upgrading. Generally, I turn off all automatic updating for software and only install critical security updates. My favorite motto is "if it ain't broke don't fix it." Let's see, now where did I put that serial mouse?? Just kidding... I'm not THAT bad!

Den2010
Den2010

I'd say that Windows 8 was a sure-fire dud. But as you point out, there's a lot more going on with this release. Metro is what is most in your face with Windows 8, but the architectural changes and upgrading of features is the real story. If I could have the Windows desktop of Win7 and the foundation of Win8, I'd be a happy camper. As it is, Metro - by itself - is making an upgrade to Windows 8 very unlikely for me. The obsession Microsoft has with their magical touchy-feely interface is depressing. Tablets are a growth area, and Metro is great in that usage scenario. But most of us are still using desktop and laptop computers without touch support. It's going to take years for that installed base to be replaced. It may well be that Windows 9 or 10 will be the version that finally gets on the majority of (future) touch-centric PCs. It's possible that touch by that time will have been supplanted by open air gestures, voice control, or something else entirely. Windows 8 is a gamble by Microsoft - it's going to be really interesting to see if they lose their shirts on this.

lehnerus2000
lehnerus2000

This feature will probably be disabled in workplaces. It's too dangerous. It's well known that most users don't read the various dialogue boxes that pop up on their PCs. It's too easy to choose the wrong option and wipe your entire machine. I thought that I'd check it out. Both options offered to wipe my entire PC (4.5 TB of files)! Not very useful. At least the options warned me before it was too late.

eboyhan
eboyhan

I agree with your basic conclusion about enterprise uptake, and many of the pros/cons of W8 you outlined in your piece. My view is that over the last several release cycles MS is developing a release cadence with some similarities to Intel's tick/tock cadence. For MS "tick" is the high volume uptake cycle with features and enhancements that merely perfect/consolidate the advancements of the previous cycle. "Tock" is the cycle where major enhancements and UI changes occur. The uptake won't be as great as for the "tick" cycle, but MS has certain structural advantages deriving from its relationships with H/W OEMs such that it will still sell a substantial number of "tock" windows copies. Using this way of looking at things, XP was a "tick" (consolidating the advancements in W2000 and the W95/98 line), Vista was a "tock", and W7 is a "tick". Hence, W8 will be a "tock" -- MS (in my view) does not expect major enterprise uptake with this release -- as you point out many are just commencing their migrations from XP to W7 (I would argue that timing and other considerations will mandate that going forward, enterprises will only adopt "tick" releases in any volume). IMV many of the feature and UI constraints are best understood by what's going on underneath the covers. With W8 MS is starting to migrate all low-level developer interfaces from win32 to winrt. This effort will probably not be complete until the W9 timeframe. Business needs probably dictated that the initial version of winrt focus on the tablet and ARM support requirements. The downside to the partial migration in W8 is that MS must support both win32 and winrt, and it need to do this in a mostly sandboxed way (no hybrid win32/winrt apps allowed). This explains the existence of separate "Metro" and "Desktop" environments, and probably also the issues with Mozilla et al vis a vis browsers ("Desktop" on ARM is nothing at all like "Desktop" on x86). My guess is that "Metro"/"Desktop" distinctions will disappear in the W9 timeframe as win32 fades from view.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"Why Windows 8 won't be an immediate enterprise slam dunk" Remove the word 'immediate'.

pbug56
pbug56

MS is shooting itself in the foot again. ME and VISTA both failed because MS knew better then its users what its users wanted. Like XP, 7 will have a much longer lifetime because 8 is such a mess. Sure, nice for tablets. Nice for toddlers and cats and dogs on a touch screen. But for any human older then maybe 5 who needs to do something on a non-touch screen computer, 8 is worse then useless. The under hood improvements fade away when compared to the removal of the START button and what that means. All that Microsloth had to do was give us a choice of what GUI we want.

peaced
peaced

Were looking at deploying 8 in our School Enviroment mainly because have Tablet PC's and testing done so far is working well for these devices. for the few non Touch/Tablet devices the current idea at this stage is to offer both windows 7 & 8

earlehartshorn
earlehartshorn

My employer hasn't even started to leave XP because the Health Care industry has very few apps that will run on anything newer (I'm still forced to work in VB5!), so I do not expect to see Win8 anytime soon in my job. However, I am reminded of all the doom and gloom predicted when Office 2007 was released. Too big of a change, the Ribbon is bad for productivity, etc. And Office 2010 still has some pain points, but most people have made it past the pain and are now productive with it. Win8 may never see much uptake in business, but I think that we had better get used to the idea and get ready for Win9.

Skruis
Skruis

This release is primarily targeted at consumers so I don't think it'll be suprising that Windows 8 will not be adopted wide scale by the enterprise....that is....outside of the mobile category. For mobile enterprise users, Windows 8 will be the most appropriate solution. I'm sure MS is well aware of that and as Windows 7 will continue to be available, aren't really worried about the immediate adoption of 8 in the corporate world. They'll let it filter out to consumers, revise it and then make improvements.

tom.marsh
tom.marsh

The real issue seems to me to be there's nothing compelling to make you upgrade. Windows 7 introduced some great security improvements, some great improvements to the "model" of how Windows worked, and did so with a large number of users staying put on the same, rock-solid hardware. Now that we've invested tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of dollars of our customers money securing environments for Windows 7, adapting applications for Windows 7, and making 7 our standard, nobody is eager for another major shift just a couple short years later. ESPECIALLY since Windows 7 is still so viable, reliable, and stable. Changing to 8 right now, without a compelling reason, seems like a waste of money.

Craig_B
Craig_B

I agree with your comments Scott. When Windows 7 came out and we tested it in our environment we saw the benefits right away, "it just worked". When testing Windows 8 thus far it's been a challenge with no immediate benefits over Windows 7 / 2008 R2. On top of this I can see Windows 8 will require a lot of training and as you mention upating documents to work around a lack of a Start button. It seems Windows 8 with the Metro interface is a solution looking for a problem. Most enterprise needs are covered by Windows 7, as we mainly use basic desktops with a keyboard/mouse. With Windows 7 we started implementing it once the RTM was released. With Windows 8 we are in no hurry at all.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

As you noted, tablets and touch are growth areas. Consumers, especially content viewers, will probably like it. Besides, unlike corporate offices with the tools to downgrade or replace it, consumers buying new hardware won't have a choice. That new system is going to come with W9, like it or not. I don't see touch or air gestures gaining much ground on workplace desktops anytime soon; they're just too tiresome, with too much potential for repetitive stress injuries. Who wants to hold their arms up all day?

mhoff1387
mhoff1387

but for people that are content creators (not content consumers like most school age children are) W8 doesn't cut it. Not to mention, schools aren't filled with a bunch of change adverse people that have been using a product that has been functionally the same for almost 20 years. A kid can probably pick it up no problem, but companies have to spend money to train people, lose all productivity while they are in training, plus the loss of productivity until everyone is proficient at the new way of working.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Office 7 replaced the 'File' menu with the Office button, which confused many who thought the button was merely a logo. It was somewhat equivalent to W8 replacing the Start button with a 'hot spot'. Office 10 saw the abandonment of the Office button and the return of the File menu. I'm hoping W9 will see the Start button return too, if not sooner.

lehnerus2000
lehnerus2000

Agreed. I was participating in a training course (not computer-related) when I first encountered the Office button. Everyone in the class thought that it was just a logo (the screen tip and glow didn't appear either).