Windows 8 has been in the news lately, and with good reason. It represents a major strategy shift from Microsoft to treat the tablet and other mobile devices as equal in importance as desktop devices It has been redesigned from the ground up, and looks and feels fundamentally different from Windows 7.
However, for most businesses, it isn’t about the ‘cool’ factor, or being on the leading edge just for the sake of running the latest software. The question for most businesses is “what is the advantage to upgrading?” I’ll address that with my experience here.
REASONS TO UPDATE NOW:
COST: Software must be upgraded to remain current – there is no question about that. New technology, new devices and often more importantly, new security threats, drive the market. In the past, however, that has required a significant cost investment. This time, Microsoft if offering an upgrade package from $35 to $80, depending on the reseller and the offer. This is substantially less than other upgrades.
Even if you do not plan to update now, it may be best to purchase the licenses now, and keep them until you are ready to upgrade. A warning, though, if you are an Office user, you will likely want to upgrade Office to 2013 as well (see below), and that will add to the costs.
MOBILITY: One of the best features of Windows 8 in conjunction with Office 2013 is the integration of Microsoft’s cloud-based services in SkyDrive. Windows 8 finally embraces online storage and online synchronization. With SkyDrive, you can save and open online files from pretty much anywhere and from multiple devices, always having the latest version and updates handy. Besides that, overall PC settings are synced to the cloud as well. That means if you have more than one computer running Windows 8, they can all share the same personalization settings, so you only need to configure one PC and all the others will fall in line automatically. This has quickly become one of my favorite features.
ONE DESIGN: Imagine for a moment how much simpler it could be if all of your computing devices (PC , tablet, phone, etc) worked pretty much the same way, shared settings and personality, AND had a wealth of complete business applications available for all of them. That’s what Windows 8 offers -assuming you like the experience of using the OS to begin with, you can transition from Windows 8 on the desktop to Windows 8 on a Surface tablet to Windows Phone 8 — even the Windows 8-like interface on the Xbox home entertainment system. It will take some time for the apps to catch up (and for tablets to run more than the Windows RT operating system), but the prospect is exciting for someone who regularly uses multiple devices with multiple ‘personalities’ today.
REASONS TO WAIT:
THE LEARNING CURVE: There is a whole new user experience to Windows via the Metro interface. And… it’s not always intuitive. The Metro interface will be outstanding on your Surface tablet, but ‘masks’ many of the common, easy to access areas that you are familiar with if you are a proficient Windows 7 or XP user. For example, the Start menu is gone and can’t be restored. Granted, the new modern Start Screen does more or less the same thing, but the fact remains that it’s different and you’ll need to learn it. Even shutting down your PC takes multiple mouse clicks now. There will be a learning curve – and it may be steep, especially for power users used to managing multiple apps and navigating the old operating system with ease.
APPLICATIONS DESIGNED FOR MULTIPLE DEVICES: Microsoft now features an app store as well, similar to the Apple App Store or Google’s Marketplace. These apps are touch-friendly and seem to be modeled after the iOS model of doing a few things well. While that definitely makes it simpler to configure and use the application, a Windows programs typically offer a tremendous amount of power, flexibility, and customization. Does that mean the entire personality of Windows apps will change — for the dumber and simpler — as the Windows Store fills with apps? Will Windows become just a more bloated iPad? Time will tell, but I have already found issues with the Windows 8 version of Skype from the app store. Much of the customization and many of the shortcuts I was familiar with are no longer there.
In summary, most business clients may find it cost effective to purchase the upgrades now, yet hold off in deployment until the application store develops and move Windows 8 based devices are present. Give me a call at (501) 588-3440 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about what Windows 8 can (or can’t) do for your office.