Microsoft has started releasing details about the upcoming Windows 8. And the early word suggests many IT managers may not find the OS to be worth an upgrade for their businesses.
Tech analyst firm Gartner, for example, has guessed that Windows 8 may be a hit with consumers, but so far doesn’t seem like it will have much to offer businesses.
The public first got a detailed look at the OS when the Windows 8 Developer Preview was released last month at Microsoft’s Build event. The OS was pushed as a radical departure from previous versions of Windows — specifically, it’s been designed with a touch-centric interface for use on tablet computers.
Dubbed the Metro UI, the new interface features a tiled layout similar to what’s found on Windows-based smartphones. The tiles can be touched on tablets and PCs with that capability, or users can navigate the UI with a traditional mouse and keyboard set-up.
However, users can also switch to Windows 8’s desktop mode, accessing an interface similar to Windows 7, but with one big change — the loss of the full-featured Start menu that’s been a Windows staple for years. The new menu offers just four options for search and various system settings — and not the full list of applications and menus familiar to Windows users.
Microsoft hopes the big changes to the interface will help the company break into the tablet market, as the company’s been touting Windows 8 as one OS that can be used across multiple devices. However, those changes may serve to discourage adoption among business customers.
That’s why Gartner predicts most businesses will pass on Windows 8, according to a recent Fox News story.
The reasoning is that an estimated 80% of businesses are still running XP or are moving to Windows 7. And so far, the seemingly tablet- and consumer-focused Windows 8 hasn’t given them a good reason to change course or upgrade again after adopting Windows 7. According to Gartner, Windows 7 has been successful with businesses partially because, on its surface, it isn’t that different from XP and other familiar versions of the OS, whereas Windows 8 could be hurt by its more dramatic changes.
Just as many organizations used XP, skipped Vista and moved to Windows 7, some experts predict this time around, businesses will move to Windows 7, skip Windows 8 and wait to see what comes next.
Another issue is that organizations planning to hang onto XP until Windows 8 is ready may find XP’s support will run out before they’ve fully installed the new OS, leaving them vulnerable to security flaws for a period of time.
That’s not to say Windows 8 will have no benefits for businesses. While the major changes seem to be focused on consumers and the tablet market, there are some planned features IT will be interested in. For example:
- Greater efficiency – One of the biggest complaints (among many) about Windows Vista was that the new OS was so resource-hungry that it required a significant hardware upgrade in order to use. Microsoft’s apparently taken that criticism to heart, as the company has explained that Windows 8’s hardware requirements are even lower than that of its predecessor.
- Improved security – As to be expected, one of the big draws of upgrading to the new OS will be its improved security. Windows 8 is expected to feature a number of new security features, such as improvements to Windows Defender and BitLocker, a new secure boot operation that prevents malware from loading while the system starts up, and a new Windows Refresh option that makes it easier to restore the OS to a known healthy state while preserving user customization.
- More support for mobile users – Windows 8 could be helpful as more users begin to work remotely, not just because of the OS’s optimization for tablets, but also due to its ability to boot from a USB drive, which would allow users to plug a memory stick into any machine and boot Windows 8 with all their settings intact.
Fortunately, businesses still have time to evaluate their options and decide whether or not to upgrade. However, with XP’s support ending in April 2014, the clock is starting to tick for organizations to migrate to a different OS.
What’s your organization’s plan? Have you started or are you planning a move to Windows 7? Waiting for Windows 8? Let us know in the comments section below.