Windows 8

Windows 8 early adopters beware

Windows 8 has some landmines that require consideration and navigation. Scott Lowe takes a look at what those are.

Although there has been a wide variety of opinion of the merits-or lack thereof-of Windows 8, one thing is certain: Someone, somewhere will glom on to a feature that they absolutely need for their business and will want to deploy this operating system to one or more desktop PCs in the organization.

In the case of Windows Server 2012, which is built upon the same basic codebase as Windows 8, the business benefits are much more clear, and the desire for organizations to deploy this newest server operating system may be very compelling.

For those considering early adoption of either of these platforms, there are some things that you need to watch out for and understand before you take the plunge.

Lack of enterprise management tools from Microsoft

At present, Microsoft has not yet released a version of System Center 2012 that will support Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012.  This support will come with the release of System Center 2012 SP1, which is currently in beta.

For those organizations that have standardized on System Center for desktop software deploy an enterprise monitoring, this poses a critical challenge.  Is it worth the support costs that will need to be incurred to manage one-off Windows 8 systems without, for example, Configuration Manager?  If the business case is compelling enough, that support may be granted, but it's a question that CIOs need to consider.

Once Service Pack 1 is released for System Center 2012, this situation will completely change, but for now, it may be better to, if possible, hold on Windows 8 and Server 2012 deployments until Microsoft's management tools have caught up to the schedule.

Desktop deployment tools are available, but...

As I review the tools that Microsoft has made available, such as the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, I note that the tools are supporting the beta versions of the management tools described above (as of this writing).  However, Microsoft itself recommends never deploying beta software into a production environment, so these tools would necessarily be limited to testing and evaluation only.

Early adoption numbers are very low

As has been predicted for quite some time, Windows 8 uptake is not happening nearly as quickly as has been the case in previous versions of Windows.  In fact, some estimates indicate that early adoption is five times lower than has been the case for earlier versions.

Generally, early adopters are the pioneers that forge that path that everyone else follows.  However, without a critical mass of early adopters, even mid-stage early adopters may find that the intended pathway is not nearly as clear as they like.

Even mid- to late-stage early adopters may find themselves at a bit more of a bleeding edge than they would normally like when it comes to Windows 8.  This means that there is less experience and less know-how when it comes to overcoming challenges that organizations may face.

Internet Explorer 10 vs. Internet Explorer 10 for Desktop

Windows 8 ships with two versions of Internet Explorer.  One is optimized for tablet use and disallows the use of plugs in of any type, save Flash.  The other one is the Internet Explorer that we've all come to know and love.  The version of IE that is run is entirely dependent on the location from which the user starts the browser.  If the user opens IE from the new Start Screen, the touch-optimized, plugin-free experience is started.  If IE is started from the desktop, traditional IE is started.

Fortunately for administrators, there are Group Policies that can be assigned that control which version of Internet Explorer is launched.  Administrators are able to indicate, for example, that he traditional IE should be the version that is launched 100% of the time.

Frankly, the IE vs. IE issue in Windows 8 is just a symptom of a larger challenge that lies around administrators having the opportunity to ensure that they truly understand the nuances of the new OS before deploying it into a production environment.

Software compatibility and support

As is the case with any upgrade from one version of Windows to another, there will be some actual and perceived driver issues that pop up.  In addition, there will be application compatibility and support issues as well.  Even if applications run just fine, there will be vendors out there that will not support their apps under Windows 8 for weeks or months, if ever.

Early adopters will need to understand that, in these cases, they assume the major risk of potentially losing support if enterprise vendors refuse to support the new operating system.

When it comes to driver compatibility, Microsoft has indicated that, if there are no Windows 8 drivers available for a particular device, that Windows 7 drivers should work just fine.  At present, not all vendors have Windows 8 driver prepared.

The primary downside to using older drivers is that users may be exposed to warnings about the drivers or the user experience may not be what's expected due to the major interface changes found in Windows 8.  For a comprehensive look at how this is handled with just one device class-printers-take a look at this excellent article on the topic.

Microsoft will be making available a tool to help people understand challenges that they may face when upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 8.  This article from CNET discusses the Upgrade Assistant and how it can help ease some upgrade worries.

Summary

Although there may not be as many as there were with older versions of Windows, those adopting Windows 8 do have some landmines that require consideration and navigation.  Over time, many of these issues will be resolved, but for now, tread carefully!

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...

21 comments
fullmetalbuddha
fullmetalbuddha

I have a DYI pc. Upon installation of Win 7 I always ahve to find my mobo install disk for the Ethernet drivers. It really is rather annoying. Win 8 comes with the needed driver for my Ethernet card, so I was mildly impressed with that. :)

Gisabun
Gisabun

Microsoft Deployment Tooklit 2012 Update 1 [which has been out for a while] states Windows 8 is supported and doesn't mention beta or release candidate in the release notes. Most organizations are first to note that servers get upgraded before desktops and laptops. System Center 2012 SP1 is in beta and is expected to be available early next year. All this saying that most organization wouldn't even think of deploying Windows 8 for a long while anyways. I know of one that wiped Windows 7 off the laptops purchased and installed Windows XP. Only now they are almost finishing off their Windows 7 deployment.

mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

Who every came up with this "me too" tablet OS needs to be introduced to the present day bread lines. The only thing the Surface is good for is a coaster. Get the real thing, buy Apple.

bradhorne81
bradhorne81

In our organization, we are almost fully switched to Windows 7 x64 and Windows 2008 R2 and are very happy with the performance and compatibility in most cases. Before switching, I generally wait to ensure the hardware and software we use will be fully supported. If there was a free tool you could run on your system to do a simulated install - telling you what potential missing drivers you would need and performance you are likely to get, I think I would feel more comfortable switching. At home I run OSX, they tell right out if your system isn't going to support the new version or not - since the Windows world is so much more diversified, I think they need a tool to do an assessment of your system.

Red_One
Red_One

"The IE that we know and love." I HATE IE and I'm not alone. It might be secure now, but I refuse to give it another chance. I only use it when forced, and that is happening less and less these days.

thekman58
thekman58

LOL, sorry but I have to laugh at this very notion. When has the enterprise ever been early adopters? On the server side maybe but as far as the clients, NO. The vast majority of enterprises are just finishing or still in the process of Windows 7 rollouts. So will Windows 8 be seen in the enterprise. Not anytime soon. Just like any OS upgrade.

cybershooters
cybershooters

Been setting up GPOs lately for Windows 8, there are serious issues there, for example the homepage URL is no longer where it used to be, it's now a preference, not a policy setting. Removing the packaged apps is a PITA, you either have to edit the WIM using DISM or run a script to remove them for each logged on user, there is no GPO nor can you remove them from the default policy (as far as I can tell), that appears to be by design. Some IE10 settings are hidden, such as content filter, that is also controlled by a preference, not a policy. And so on. Took me ages to figure it all out.

dpbakeril
dpbakeril

fog and shadows without sustenance to guide the unwary through the maze of bleeding edge horror awaiting an unsuspecting business.

sysop-dr
sysop-dr

if you are letting Windows 8 on your lan now it will be uncontrolled. While Win 8 is aimed squarely at the regular computer user and not at the power users it will only be a few power users and developers who will be allowed to use it at work for now.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

corporate organisations maintain the same server version as the desktop operating system. Heck, I know of places where they're using Win 2000 Advanced Server still, regardless of what's on the desktops. In light of all that, how well does the Win 8 work with the older versions of the Windows Server, and how well does the new Windows Server work with the older desktops? Two questions that will be of concern to a lot of people. Related to that are the concerns about how well will Win 8 run software designed for Win XP and Win 7?

NonBreaker
NonBreaker

Appreciate the information. I think we are either going to be very late adopters, or we'll only deploy on tab-tops. Depends on whether our CIO shares our sentiments regarding Win8 on the desktop.

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

The one downside to text only is that you couldn't see the grin on my face when I wrote that sentence ;-)

rajan.sowri
rajan.sowri

HDMI compatibility is still not resolved. I tried to connect my laptop (running Windows 8) with Sony Internet TV with HDMI cable, without success.

jcitron
jcitron

For the most part I agree, but with the latest BYOD craze, we're going to see more and more Win8 tablets and laptops showing up at work. It's been bad enough trying to get 'Droid and Apple machines connected to the guest network and VPN installed on these things. I can't imagine trying to get some of the corporate applications to run as well. Perhaps I am lucky where I work because most applications are web and cloud based, so if the application doesn't run, it doesn't run and I don't have to support it. I pass the buck on to GIT support and the helpless desk and let the users fend for themselves.

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

This is an excellent observation. I have heard some reports of Group Policy issues from other versions of Windows Server not necessarily being applied correctly to WIndows 8. Given the scope of the changes in Windows 8, this isn't particularly surprising. I'm going to do some research on this topic. It's definitely something that needs to be considered. That said, I have had the chance to work with WIndows Server 2012 and if anyone is considering upgrading, just do it. WS2012 is rock solid. Scott

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

I see BYOD as the biggest potential way that W8 (especially W8 RT) makes its way into the enterprise. Scott

cybershooters
cybershooters

As with any version of Windows, you have to use the new ADMX/ADML files, but the layout is a bit different for Windows 8 so you really need to have a look at them using GPMC on Windows 8 after you've loaded them up, internet explorer maintenance for example has gone and they're all preference settings now.

mckinnej
mckinnej

Not sure why you're being voted down because you're making a valid point. The RT version of Win8 isn't really Windows. It's heavily watered down at best. Anyone trying to use Win8 RT device for BYOD will be limited to web apps and probably only a subset of those.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

simply because it can not log on to the domain, and one of the reasons for BYOD is to be able to access the enterprise network. I can see some organisations going for Win 8 RT specifically because they see a need for some tablets as stand alone devices they don't want to have access to the domain, but they'd be very rare cases.