Windows

Windows 8: Four big takeaways for business and IT

Windows 8 officially arrives on new tablets and PCs on Friday. For the enterprise, here are the four most important things to know about the new platform.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer extolled the benefits of Windows 8 at the product's launch event in New York on October 25, 2012.

You're going to hear a lot about the hits and misses of Windows 8 over the next couple weeks. You'll read wildly divergent reviews of Windows 8's flagship device, the Microsoft Surface. But, if you are a business decision maker or an IT professional and you are trying to sort out what Windows 8 has to offer and whether it is a good fit in your company, then here are the four most important factors that you need to understand.

1. The learning curve is steep, and training is required

With Windows 8, Microsoft is making the most radical change in the history of Windows. Yes, this is even bigger than the launch of Windows 95. Why? Because Microsoft is completely rewriting the idea of what it means to use a computer. The old file and folder metaphor is gone. The visual image of a desktop workspace is history (except for legacy apps). In fact, Microsoft has done away with metaphors from the physical world and unnecessarily graphics altogether and replaced them with plain fonts and boxes. This makes Windows much more adaptable to different screen sizes and much more touch-friendly.

I applaud Microsoft for its boldness in moving the Windows platform forward. This will improve computing for the next decade. But in the next breath, I have to issue a warning to businesses that want to support Windows 8: The learning curve is steep. Windows 8 is designed for touch screens and it is generally user friendly. But the user interface is not as self-evident as the iPhone or the iPad. You're not going to be able to hand it to a toddler or a technophobe and have them immediately start navigating it without instructions. Of course, it's also more capable than iOS in many ways, but that comes at the price of complexity. People who are used to using Windows will be very confused by Windows 8 at first, and people who are familiar with iPhone or iPad are not going to be able to immediately figure out how to use a Windows 8 tablet, for example. Training will be to be required.

2. Security has improved in practical ways

One of the biggest behind-the-scenes improvements in Windows 8 involves security. While that's not very flashy or noticeable, it's something that will improve the lives of users by preemptively protecting them from a lot of the things that can cause their computers to slow down, or worse, be compromised by hackers or malware. The main thing you need to know about Windows 8 security is that it makes web browsing safer, it makes using browser extensions safer, and it makes downloading and using apps safer. For all of the technical details, read the TechRepublic article What Windows 8 has done to improve security.

3. Windows RT has business restrictions

There are important differences between Windows 8 and Windows RT. Microsoft has not done a very good job of communicating how those differences, especially in relation to the Microsoft Surface tablets. Windows RT is basically a "lite" version of Windows 8 that runs on ARM processors, which means that it can run on smaller, less expensive machines with much better battery life. At the Windows 8 launch event on Thursday, Microsoft Windows chief Steven Sinofsky called it, "A new and exciting member of the Windows family."

Devices running Windows RT look and feel exactly like Windows 8, and that's part of the problem. A lot of consumers and businesses are likely to buy devices like the new Microsoft Surface (running Windows RT) being launched at the same time as Windows 8. Despite the promise of these machines being more powerful than other competitive tablets and devices, consumers will find that they cannot run traditional Windows apps and business will discover that they cannot connect to a Windows domain. And while Windows RT devices include a version of Microsoft Office 2013, it is the Home & Student edition that doesn't include Microsoft Outlook and it is not licensed for business use unless you buy a commercial use license.

There is enough hand-wringing over the Windows RT confusion that some are predicting that the product is DOA. I don't think the situation is that dire, but I do think businesses need to thoroughly research whether devices running Windows RT will work in their environment before deciding to support them or they will end up with some very frustrated users.

4. The Windows app ecosystem is changing -- big time

With the launch of Windows 8 also comes the launch of the Windows Store -- Microsoft's answer to the Apple App Store and Google Play. This radically changes the model of how software is installed on Windows and makes it much more akin to the way users install apps on smartphones and tablets. For the most part, that's a good thing. It's easier to find Windows software and faster to buy and install it, and it's in a central place where Microsoft verifies the value, safety, and authenticity of the software so that you know you're not downloading something malicious that will infect your machine with malware.

For companies that want to deploy custom Windows apps that are restricted only to their employees or IT departments that want to deploy software the old fashioned way by loading it on a bunch of systems themselves, they will need to do what is called "sideloading" apps. That means installing apps manually instead of doing it through the Windows Store.

More for business...

Interestingly enough, at the WIndows 8 launch event, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said, "We're going to continue to add to the Windows 8 experience for business. Look for more to come." He specifically pointed out a couple Microsoft products -- Dynamics and Yammer -- that will soon have updates related to Window 8.

Since the entire Windows 8 product cycle has been so heavily consumer-focused, maybe Ballmer's comments will give IT and business professionals some reason to hope for a little more attention on the enterprise side.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

110 comments
vl1969
vl1969

one of my coworkers have crashed his PC week before last. after all data was recovered he than installed win 8 pro (we have an MSDN license) in his workstation. other than some issues with older app compatibility, neither he or I have no issues with working on it or with it. what learning curve? the main difference is that the PC starts into All program start up screen and not the desktop, big deal. the desktop tile is right there front and center for you to click. he added most of his most common apps onto first tile page and simply go right into application he needs. most programs work just fine. even some of the legacy in-house applications installed and run fine with no fuss. the only issue we had so far are very old DOS applications that are still in use and are needed for now. they wont work and we still in process on figuring out what to do with them. and one of the newer C# application stop working with no warning or explanation what so ever. still debugging that one. other than that he is working and productive for the last week with no problem. and we are talking about people who do not like changes. as I said before we still have apps that were created in DOS 16 bit Dev env. and dBase2 for DOS.

DerikGW
DerikGW

I have been using Windows 8 for a month now and it is great for home use; however, because of the way the UI is rendered, some of the tools I used to use to create presentations and tutorials no longer work even in compatability modes (e.g. fraps). I am finding more and more "querks" with the system as a software developer, so now I use my laptop with windows 7 for developement and my Windows 8 machine to run my test and dev servers (mysql, db2, apache, tomcat, etc.). It still works great for that so far. If I were a business owner, I would hold off at least until the end of the Windows 7 support life before making the switch.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

If the only thing I'm doing with the Metro desktop is using it to start conventional, non-Metro programs, is there any reason to NOT bypass it at startup? Maybe it does other things I'm not yet aware of, or maybe I'm aware of all it does and nothing besides starting programs appeals to me. The more I play with W8, the more Metro feels like a nuisance.

itsme2003
itsme2003

It seems that a lot of you really like the Emperor's new clothes. But then again you probably liked Vista a whole lot too. Personally, I don't see anything there. Microsoft is a company that has a great technical staff and terrible marketing vision. They want to cash in on the app store concept because they can see the money that Apple is making, but people will never accept that type of attempted lock-in from Microsoft like they do with Apple. Windows 8 is great under the hood, but the user interface is going to be terrible for 100s of millions of people to use.

clockmendergb
clockmendergb

They always said that moving to Linux was a stupid idea because of the learning curve. Now Microsoft has created the same problem. My family has been experimenting with Win 8 for a few months now. The young kids find it relatively easy to pick up on a laptop. One likes it a lot (Its the latest and his friends do not have it) The other is ok either way. The wife thinks its stupid just as learning Linux was. I found it to be Frustrating at first but can get around it fine now . I still find Linux to be better than Win 8 but was happy to use Win 7. That is definitely Microsoft,s best OS to date. I especially like Bitlocker on the laptops.

mfcoder-hh
mfcoder-hh

Apple's UI has never been that great (single menu bar; one button mouse); Ubuntu seems to have been fooled into the "one interface for all devices" madness with 'Unity' ... and now Windows seems to be following suit. A desktop is not a touch-screen device, and never will be. The craziness of suppliers dictating to their customers - that they know best - is just that, crazy. One only has to look for products that revert Office 2013 to it's pre-ribbon UI; or the growth of alternative UIs on Linux to carry on Gnome 2 functionality, to see that this isn't what the market wants. Sometimes change *isn't* good, and this is one such occasion. 10 years ago you could go to any Desktop UI (Apple, MS, Linux) and be roughly familiar with them. Nowadays, that's not the case, and it's a bizarre trend, given that the most used application within that UI (web-browsers) have almost merged ... IE, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, all offering a UI and functionality that is roughly the same. This is MS's 'Vista' all over again. An idea out of the think-tank that hasn't been considered from the correct perspective. If they go this way, then this is the game to Google. 10 years from now, Android & iOS will share the handheld market; servers will continue to be dominated by Linux; and the desktops will belong to ChromeOS. No business will go for Windows 8, and even the OEM market will be seeing a clamour for "old machines". MS #epic #fail. Again.

djjammaster
djjammaster

Does anyone read these articles before they are placed on the web?? Misspellings, extra words, etc. C'mon Man! No one's in a hurry to read it so you shouldn't be in a hurry to get it on the web page. Let's look like professionals here.

explorerv
explorerv

I don't understand all this lamentations about Win RT. Of course it's not designed for business use although somebody could be tempted to save some bucks. The difference is the same as between the home and pro versions of XP plus the savings from the hardware. So it's easy to understand.

FrozenDeveloper132
FrozenDeveloper132

Jason, did you even bother to proofread this piece of crap before you published it? Some of the syntax and grammar is so bad, I can't even begin to understand what you're trying to say, never mind the point you're trying to get across. Technical writers such as yourself write about a world full of details and those details often matter a great deal when it comes to communicating technical ideas. Your ability to get your ideas across is demonstrated very poorly in this article. I'm no longer able to take you as credible source of information and I'll no longer read your articles until you can prove you have more intelligence than a fifth grader. Your writing is bad, and you should feel bad.

dale303
dale303

I do consultancy and support for design teams (web/2d/3d/print/animation/video) They uses a variety of applications and file types. Not only do these guys use applications that need to be able to open and edit multiple file types, more often than not, they use different applications on the same files at different stages of their workflow . Everything I've seen so far with Windows 8 just stops their workflow stone dead. How do 'tiles' help these guys in any way whatsoever? I recently cloned a typical 3D animator's machine (Office 2010 Pro/Adobe CS6 Master Suite/ Autodesk 3DS Max/Maya and sundry apps, plugins and support files) to see if Window 8 would be any use. Even after uninstalling all of the Windows 8 consumer junk, his 'apps' window still needed to be scrolled 14 times to see all his relevant apps. Of course many of the 'apps' were help files. tutorials texts & videos along with quite a few dedicated support utilities but all that was lumped into a flat 14 page horizontal scroller (on a 4K!! screen). What an incredible waste of screen estate In Windows 7, especially when all of that was neatly represented in 4 inches of screen and all of it was available with only 2-3 clicks of the mouse. Not only that, with a nested folder structure, it was easy to spot links between applications and support files. The flat file system just creates a wash that's much harder to distinguish the relevant from the not. If you attempt to simplify the app menu to only include apps then where do you put the relevant support files and how do you link them back to the original application and how do you link apps and support files that are needed for workflow? There's a huge difference between pottering about with a few free apps with the Win 8 preview version and trying to run your real apps in a real work situation. Windows 8 is shockingly bad for anything other than doing a bit of web browsing, checking the weather and tapping out the odd email / office doc. If you want Windows 8 to do any more than deal with a handful of apps look elsewhere! It just doesn't scale for serious work. Still, at least I've got a massive amount of training ^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H un-learning work out of it if nothing else. Perhaps I've missed a trick or two... Please let me know...

JJFitz
JJFitz

The title of your article indicates that you are talking about Windows 8. If that's the case, "the old file and folder metaphor is" [b]certainly not gone[/b]. It's on the desktop. "The visual image of a desktop workspace" [b]is certainly not history[/b]. Again, the desktop still exists. Lastly, "Windows 8 is" [b]not[/b] "designed for touch screens". It is designed to support a touchscreen, keyboard, mouse, stylus, track pad, touch pad, touch mouse, trackball, and mouse pointer to name a few input devices. If you meant to address Windows RT, which is geared mostly for the home user, then I stand corrected. If you don't agree with me that Windows RT is geared for the home user, then why does it include Microsoft Office Home and Student version?

EthicalLoner
EthicalLoner

I'm sorry. Call me old fashioned, call me just plain old - but if you do you also have to call me correct. I just don't get how it is so OK these days to present yourself as a reliable, educated person writing a blog and have so many errors in grammar and spelling in your articles. I don't expect perfection. That isn't even an attainable goal. However, one would not be asking too much to be able to read an article and not have to stop every couple sentences to figure out what the writer was really trying to say. Take the opening sentence of this article for instance. "You’re going to hear a lot about the hits and misses of Windows 8 over the next couple weeks. You’ll read wildly divergent reviews of Windows 8’s flagship device, the Microsoft Surface. But, if you are a business decision maker or an IT professional and you are trying to sort out what". Trying to sort out what? How does one sort out what when one doesn't have a clue what "what" is? Or how about this confusing statement? "There are important differences between Windows 8 and Windows RT. Microsoft has not done a very good job of communicating how those differences, especially in relation to the Microsoft Surface tablets." Really? This sentence is supposed to end here in this fashion? I don't think so. Yes, I get the gist, or most of it. But are you really being fair to your readers? Come on! I know you can write better than this. I've seen it. How about some integrity, some passion, some "give a damn"? Thanks for listening. And feel free to pick apart my message if you like. Have a great weekend!

Dyalect
Dyalect

I admire their vigor. But this will be a vista sized disaster. Google/Linux will benefit from it though. They can't give Windows 8 away.

tgMisc
tgMisc

Will Win8 RT have MSTSC? If I can remote to my work or home PCs and process there, I don't need a full powered tablet. I couldn't get a good answer from Microsoft on whether Terminal Services is available before the Pro version of the Surface comes out. If it can do what the iPad does, and allow me to remote to desktops when I need to really work, I'll be fine.

ClintSulis
ClintSulis

I am tired of reading about how people miss the start menu. Everybody just calm down and embrace the future. THE METRO INTERFACE IS THE NEW START MENU!! They took what was formerly BURIED beneath the start menu and lifted it to be your primary interface. Thats why when you swipe the right side of the screen and press the START icon it takes you to the Metro interface. If you want quick access to the administrative functions that used to be available on the start menu, you need not look any further than pressing the WINDOWS+X key combination. Also the WINDOWS+Q key combination is also very useful.

cocis48
cocis48

I agreed, this is the biggest change ever, you may not noticed it right away, but wait all manufactures must create new hardware for pc's and all will have the touch screen feature. it is the new future.

DerikGW
DerikGW

I spend almost 100% of my time in desktop on windows 8. I think the metro start screen is a bit of an annoyance for the pc. No sensible person is going to drop hundreds of dollars on a small touch screen and hold their arm up all day using it.

333239
333239

Microsoft might be a 'me too' in this case, but it is Apple who is making huge profits by convincing people to pay well over the odds for not much at all.

333239
333239

Touch, WIMP or text, it's all there in Windows 8, just use the one you like the most. Sure if you like a text interface only then you might as well use Linux because it's free, but why are people complaining about an interface they don't have to use? (the start menu/screen is not an interface and you'd have to be pretty thick not to understand it. If you don't like change then nobody is stopping you from sticking with what you have, so why all the moaning?)

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

OS meant only for phones and tablets, not an enterprise PC at all - well, that's what the MS developer trainers are telling the app developers.

JJFitz
JJFitz

The desktop is still there. Go right to the desktop to run programs that were designed to be used on a desktop. Use tiles for lightweight apps and to get to the desktop. Use the taskbar on the desktop as you always did; to pin frequently used programs. Most importantly C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs still exists. If you like navigating for programs that way, pin a link to it on your taskbar. Me? If I didn't already pin it to the taskbar, I prefer to just type the name of the program I want to open right on the start screen. i.e. "Excel" + enter opens Excel in a microsecond. I hope this helps.

dale303
dale303

Vista was more of a publicity disaster than actuality (well after SP1 anyway). The only way I can see Windows 8 can be redeemed for business users is to put the start button back and be able to disable the 'formerly known as Metro' interface. Linux might have benefited from this if Gnome/Unity hadn't also done the same s**t and ruined their desktops too. Me? I always thought all those XP diehards were lunatics but I can see me doing the same thing with Windows 7 for quite some time if MS keep this crap up.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

connect to a network or a domain, so no remote from the RT at all.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Metro isn't it's name any more, that was dropped when M$ got a message that the metro in Europe was not very pleased to be associated with the new Start menu on Windows 8. As yet it's not been renamed but it's defiantly not called Metro any more by Microsoft. ;) Col

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Working with arms raised and extended for long periods of time is probably not going to be good for your back. Not to mention that adding touch screen technology will pretty much double the price of your monitor.

Coss71
Coss71

Ever go into a fast food place? Did you happen to notice the kind of screen they use? Just go into HP, or Dell or any of the others and look at their POS units. Not new, they just get to make and sell more now.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

www.infopackets.com/news/business/microsoft/2012/20121105_microsoft_sued_over_windows_8_user_interface.htm

JJFitz
JJFitz

If it works in Windows 7, it works in Windows 8. At least I have not found an application that didn't work in 8 yet. The Start/Metro style/App screen is for lightweight apps. The desktop is for everything else that everyone is very familiar with. I have been using Windows 8 every day since the first release and I just upgraded my home Windows 7 computer to Windows 8 Pro with out a hitch. All of my settings stayed the same. The only thing I had to do was get a new driver for my Bluetooth hardware. It was a breeze. No, I am not using a touch screen. You don't have to. The mouse works just as well. Click in the lower left corner of the screen where the start button used to be and you get the start screen. The mouse wheel acts as the swipe gesture quite nicely. Both of my Win 8 computers are operating significantly faster. The desktop is ready in 20 seconds from cold boot. I am very impressed with Windows 8. Is it ready for business use? That depends. Are you willing to spend 15 minutes showing someone how to navigate? Then yes, it is ready for business.

tgMisc
tgMisc

I'm not tryin to connect to a network, or join a domain. I'm trying to remote to another desktop through Terimal Services. The other desktop can handle all the networking. MSTSC just acts as a dumb terminal, like PC Anywhwere.

Darren B - KC
Darren B - KC

Right now, MS is referring to it as simply "Windows 8 UI", and I have a feeling that's what will end up sticking.

dale303
dale303

How are we going to google/bing it without getting it mushed up with everything else?

JJFitz
JJFitz

a touch screen is not required. The mouse works fine in Windows 8. That's all I have on my desktop.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

I've not seen an 26 inch touch screens being advertised for sale.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Microsoft or Apple haven't acted as patent trolls themselves?

JJFitz
JJFitz

from the tile screen, hit a key, any key. from the desktop, open file explorer and type in the search box. from the desktop, type Windows + e to open explorer Hint: Pin File Explorer to the taskbar and the Start screen to make access faster.

JJFitz
JJFitz

To get to the desktop, you can click the desktop tile or you can click the enter key, or you can click the windows key. (The first two work provided the desktop tile is the top left tile)

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

In my limited experience (running Win 8 in Virtualbox), simply striking the Windows key toggles back and forth between the classic desktop and the Metro interface. To get the search up, you have to press and hold the Win key. While this is not significantly different from Win 7, it's different enough that it took me a few minutes to figure it out. It could, of course, be related to the virtual environment. But while I've experienced slow processing in the Linux VMs I'm running, I've not noticed this type of delay in response to a keyboard or mouse input.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

start button while I use the other hand to snack with. While what you say Win 8 needs is two keys and a click - that a lot more than a single click.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

- some of the third party programs that work well on Win 7 don't work properly on Win 8; - some of the older programs that run well on XP and work in the Win 7 XP mode have issues on Win 8; - difficulties in Win 8 with having multiple programs open and displayed side by side at the same time; - some hardware that works with XP and Win 7 doesn't work with Win 8: this should never be an issue, but is. And the big bug bear for most enterprise situation is the learning curve is just too high to be considered worth the downtime it requires. I know of a few people who are already cancelling new computer orders as the vendors are starting to say they can only ship with Win 8 now as that's all Microsoft will give them licences for. I wonder how long before they have a noticeable down turn in new pc and notebook sales.

DerikGW
DerikGW

I use splashtop to remote in to my Windows 8 pc from my android tablet. You may take a look. I find it to be the most capable remote software yet. http://www.splashtop.com/home

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

only Win 8 Pro and Enterprise has the host capability. Thus, based on that you can remote your tablet from a Pro or Enterprise system. So you should have remote service TO the Surface RT, but not from it. I expect that's so they can remote check your system when they want to.

JJFitz
JJFitz

I was pleasantly surprised at how easily Remote Desktop worked. It connected to my Windows Home Server much easier and much much much quicker than even my Windows 7 Pro laptop and it was light years faster than my XP box. Performance (keyboard, mouse, video) on the remote server was excellent. It goes without saying that remoting from my Win 8 desktop to my Win 8 (eval copy) tablet was very easy. I think it will work.

JJFitz
JJFitz

Who moved my cheese?

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

If common sense was common, we wouldn't need a name for it.

JJFitz
JJFitz

Windows 8 does not require a touch screen or Keep calm and use your mouse

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

But the author of the post I responded to apparently doesn't...