It's more than obvious that an enterprise migration to Windows 8 will not look like the migration to Windows 7. In fact, many organizations remain in the midst of their Windows 7 deployments and won't even consider a look at Windows 8. Other organizations have completed their Windows 7 projects while still others remain firmly and happily planted on Windows XP.
Many CIOs have indicated that Windows 8 is not currently on their radar and many have also indicated that they intend to skip Windows 8 altogether while they either await Windows 9 or simply stick with Windows 7 or XP. Personally, I see many XP organizations ultimately being forced to Windows 7 because of emerging compatibility issues in new third-party software releases.
For those that intend to ignore Windows 8, I don't think it's going to be quite as easy to do as it may have been to skip, say, Windows Vista. Sure, many organizations will put into place policies that prevent the installation of Windows 8 on official corporate desktops and laptops, but that alone will not prevent these same organizations from having to support it anyway.
Primarily, Windows 8 will worm its way into organizations through BYOD initiatives, whether or not those initiatives are officially sanctioned. Even if an organization doesn't deploy its own Windows 8 desktops and laptops and absolutely forbids the use of personal Windows 8 desktop and laptops, it's important for CIOs to bear in mind that we're moving to a Windows 8 everywhere world. In this era, Windows 8 runs on devices that span the spectrum and include tablets and, if you count Windows Phone 8, mobile devices.
For organizations that have implemented BYOD policies, it will be difficult to make Windows 8 tablets an exception to the policy. After all, Windows 8 tablets will likely be a whole let easier to support than some other tablets. Organizations tools may run natively on the tablet. This is not generally the case with iOS- and Android-based devices on which it's necessary to run Windows-native applications through some kind of remote connection.
Although Windows 8 is quite different than Windows 7 in many ways, those that have experience in supporting Windows 7 won't have much trouble upgrading their skills to include Windows 8. From a support perspective, it may be easier in some ways to support Windows 8 in a BYOD scenario than it is to support other platforms.
I expect that, upon its release, Microsoft's Surface (Windows 8, x86-based edition), will, at least for a while, be a popular device and, if Microsoft executes well, could be a long-term winner. I also suspect that there will be some in the upper echelons of the organization that will buy these devices and want to use them at work. This is part of the BYOD coin, but senior management, unfortunately, often has different rules, so IT may end up supporting these devices through that backdoor entrance into the company.
Windows 8 does, in fact, carry with it some features that CIOs might find compelling, depending on the organization's needs.
Windows To Go
Windows To Go might be an answer for your need to support part-time or temporary staff. In short, you can provide these people with a USB stick that contains Windows To Go, which is a full corporate desktop. This USB stick can be inserted into any Windows 7 or Windows 8 computer and the person will be presented with your corporate desktop image.
Direct Access has been improved in Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8 and provides users with a VPN without needing to use a VPN. With Direct Access, users are able to directly access the corporate network from anywhere, which means that their machines cab be managed as if they were local and the user gets access to the resources they'd have if they were on the local network.
Side load Metro apps
With the Enterprise edition of Windows 8, organizations will be able to side load Windows 8 Metro apps without having to use the Windows Store.
Although many out there are planning to skip Windows 8 altogether, forces may align that make this decision far from a slam dunk and you may end up discovering that Windows 8 is, in fact, a part of your support portfolio.
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 with CampusWorks, Inc. Scott is available for consulting, writing, and speaking engagements and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.