Does Windows 8 have a Business Future?
In early September, Microsoft delivered a public demo of Windows 8, the next version of its operating-system. Considering Windows is in use across the globe, news of a new edition is a big deal – not only for Microsoft, but also for IT managers and business owners, who’ll have to decide whether to upgrade as soon as the software package is released in a year or so.
A Sketchy History
Microsoft features a slightly sketchy history when it comes to Windows releases. Windows 7 - the current version – is widely regarded as being stable and secure by firms that work with it. However, some companies are still soldering on with Windows XP, a ten-year-old operating system. If isn’t broke, why fix it?
Indeed, it’s only now Windows 7 has time to prove itself that a lot of businesses can see a viable case for upgrading. And with Windows 7 perceived as the ‘safe’ choice, Microsoft will have to make a strong argument to persuade companies to leap over to Windows 8 instead.
A Brand-new Interface
Building a convincing an argument for switching to Windows 8 will likely be harder now the company has verified that it uses a totally brand new user interface. In a risky decision, Microsoft has shoved the familiar desktop out of the way, swapping it with a system called Metro.
Metro has been made with touch screen devices in mind, as well as for more traditional PCs. The ambition is commendable, but it does mean Windows 8 is a bold departure from what users and businesses are used to.
Once you load up Windows 8, you’ll see a set of ‘tiles’. These can present to you important information immediately (such as your email inbox), and you can also flick between tiles, or tap them to launch apps.
So far, it sounds fine – providing you’re using a device with a touch screen. If not (as could be the case for most business users), it’s tricky to see what advantages this can offer over the standard desktop.
The Desktop is still very much a part of Life
In fact, it appears very likely that many companies will wish to keep with the ever familiar desktop computer, which will be compatible with Windows 8. There are several surprises here too though. The most striking is that Microsoft has opted to incorporate the Microsoft Office-style ‘ribbon’.
This move is likely to divide opinion. The software giant states the ribbon makes necessary commands intuitive and more obvious to users, as well as helping people discover the options they require, and provides uniformity across their applications.
However, any IT managers who were forced to deal with unimpressed users when the ribbon was brought to Microsoft Office will feel a migraine coming on at the prospect of encountering it again.
Are there any Advantages?
Of course, it’s early days for Windows 8. Microsoft is promising lots of other improvements, which will ideally come to light between now and the software’s release. Undoubtedly, it will use fewer system resources than Windows 7, so should improve your performance on existing hardware.
But will there be enough bump off to persuade businesses to switch to Windows 8? With more than 12 months till the release, it’s tricky to 100% sure. But initially, it’s hard to see a compelling argument.
At least to start with, there’ll be too many unknowns to make Windows 8 an overwhelmingly attractive proposition. Will users have the capacity to cope with the interface changes? Will the upgrade process go smoothly? Look what happened with Windows Vista.
Companies that need to upgrade from Windows XP are much more likely to jump to Windows 7; it’s proven in the real-world and the upgrade path is well-established. Those currently using Windows 7 can simply sit tight while they wait and see how Windows 8 fares in its first months.
The Long Game
In the long run, it’s very possible that Microsoft’s big gamble will pay off. If touch screens become standard and tablet ownership grows, that new interface will make a whole lot of sense. In five years’ time, perhaps we’ll all be using Metro and the desktop will probably be a thing of the past.
But big changes always create problems. If you’re a company trying hard to balance the books and work viably in a tough economy, the combined distractions of Metro as well as the ribbon might be the last things you need, at least for the foreseeable future.
This is a guest post written by Jonathan Moss, who is the part of the team at IT Support Company - Integral IT