Why IT will hate Windows 8

Microsoft recently launched the Windows 8 Release Preview. What do early reviews say about the upcoming operating system? That depends on whether it’s installed on a tablet or a PC. 

The Release Preview (RP) is definitely not ready for release, most reviewers say — more changes will still be made before Windows 8 is officially launched. But this version does include some improvements made since the previous Consumer Preview.

What do IT experts and analysts have to say after kicking the OS’s tires for a bit? Is the operating system worth an upgrade, or will users and businesses be better off skipping it, as many did with Vista?

That depends. Overall, the impression seems to be that Windows 8 works well on tablets — but that it will be a hard sell for use in business environments and on traditional desktop PCs.

Much has already been written about Windows 8’s radical new Metro interface, which does away with the Start Menu button and uses a tiled interface that looks more like Microsoft’s mobile OS than previous versions of Windows. And while the RP cleans up some issues and makes incremental improvements in the interface, using it on a traditional desktop machine can be confusing, frustrating and too different from what users are used to, according to Slate’s Farhad Manjoo, as well as many other observers.

And if Windows 8 is frustrating and confusing for one user to work with, think of what things will be like for IT departments charged with fielding questions and complaints from dozens, hundreds or thousands of users.

Switching to a radically different operating system could cause big hiccups and lost time as users adjust and call the help desk asking how to get to the familiar Start Menu. And given the tablet-centric design, productivity for desktop users won’t necessarily go back up to previous levels once people learn the new OS.

The consensus among many tech experts is that Windows 8 is being designed for consumers, not businesses. That may explain why, according to some who have used the RP, the OS is far from being ready for a business environment. For example, network/server admin Kieran Cummings wrote that Windows 8’s Release Preview worked fine, until he connected the PC to an Active Directory domain.

In fact, blogger Paul Thurrott suspects that Microsoft has simply decided to skip targeting business users for this round of Windows upgrades. Windows 7 has been popular with companies, and those who have already switched are not likely to upgrade again so soon. And Thurrott expects those still using XP to move on to 7 and wait and see what comes after Windows 8. Meanwhile, he says, Microsoft is aggressively targeting the consumers it has lost to Apple.

That’s not to say the upcoming OS will have nothing to offer businesses. Despite the perceived design and interface problems, many have found the Windows 8 previews to be fast and reliable. Also, Windows 8 will include some upgrades IT should like, including a more secure boot mechanism, better virtualization capabilities, and advanced assessment and management tools.

What are your organization’s upgrade plans? Will you consider moving to Windows 8? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments section below.

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