Windows 8 has opened up a whole new world of opportunities and speculation too. The pages of the Internet are completely flooded with new gadgets, tips, and speculation surrounding Microsoft’s newest operating system. I have to admit, I have mixed feelings about Microsoft’s prospects. In some ways, I feel like Microsoft represents the big bad corporate fat cat that tried every way it could to monopolize the software market. In other ways, I am really pulling for Microsoft to win on this one. Let’s face it, a lot of people make a lot of money because Microsoft developed a product they could support or develop apps for. With the U.S. economy in the tank, we desperately need a shot in the arm. As popular as Apple products are, how many people do you know who are making a great living off Apple products? I would wager that they are few and far between. Consumer oriented products are just not the boon to the economy in the long term that business oriented products are. I am sure Apple investors might disagree, but unless you have big bucks in the market, you’re probably not benefiting very much from Apple’s success.
Now that I have had a chance to play with Windows 8 a little, I am starting to draw some of my own conclusions about it. I see that a lot of thought has been put into designing this OS, there are a lot of opportunities for both software and hardware makers, and I think this is going to be a royal nightmare for IT departments supporting business.
Somewhere along the way, Microsoft started making assumptions that everyone was locked into their products and that consumers would hopelessly remain in the cycle of expensive software upgrades every few years. Unfortunately for Microsoft, they made a very decent OS when they made Windows XP. Windows XP simply worked. It worked fast as compared to Windows 2000. It was pretty simple to use. From an IT standpoint, it was very simple to administer on a domain. It wasn’t flawless, but it got the job done. This was a big problem for Microsoft because in order to keep the revenue stream alive, they decided it was time for everyone to jump to the latest and greatest OS. This is where Windows Vista entered the scene. Short of trying to sound insulting, Windows Vista was a poorly planned, poorly implemented flop. It was riddled with problems right out of the box. However, even it had been delivered in perfect working condition, it just didn’t offer anything upgrade worthy. As an IT manager, I would love to have had a Microsoft exec try to help me explain to my boss why I needed to upgrade 100 computers to Windows Vista because frankly, I saw no advantage whatsoever except for veiled threats that Microsoft would soon stop supporting Windows XP.
With the experience of the Vista debacle in their past, Microsoft seemed to take its time with the Windows 8 rollout and it shows. First of all, Windows 8 embraces a new age of technology based on tablets and smartphones. Though it is the nightmare of many IT security personnel, the “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) movement has changed the way people interface with the company network. Employees are more than willing to go out and get the device of their choice and use it for company business. Of course, the consumer market cannot be ignored either. Microsoft recognized that Apple and Google were making a fortune in this area and that every day Microsoft didn’t have a product in that vertical was a day of missed opportunity. Microsoft also had to ensure that they got this OS right, or else suffer the same fate that Vista did. Windows 8 is definitely a tablet friendly operating system. The design is gorgeous and it is pretty intuitive as a touchscreen OS. It also doubles as a desktop operating system. By clicking the “Desktop” tile on the main screen, you can get to a more classic looking screen where you can setup shortcuts and pretty wallpapers. This dual personality, I believe, is going to make it the most flexible operating system on the market. I really don’t see how Android or IOS will be able to even compete against it unless they come up with something radical soon.
Windows of Opportunity
Windows 8 is creating a whole new category of hybrid computers and tablets. It has been really fun to see how the hardware manufacturers have designed their offerings around the new OS. Very recently, I published an article titled “Windows 8 Tablets Listed“. I feel sorry for anyone who has to make a decision about a laptop or tablet this coming holiday season. The offerings are simply incredible. You have laptops that you can literally lift the screen off the keyboard base and now you have a tablet. Others let you rotate the screen around and fold it down over the keyboard to use as a tablet. In my opinion, if you want to experience Windows 8 to the fullest, you have to consider using one of these hybrid models. They are so thin and portable, with great battery life, and really impressive power. I saw one that was demonstrated in Berlin that had a core i7 with 8GB of RAM. Think of how much computing power is in that thing! The innovation that has followed the Windows 8 announcement has been very encouraging. But let’s not forget Microsoft’s own foray into the hardware market. The Microsoft Surface tablet has been eagerly anticipated for a while now and all eyes are on its late October release. Even with Microsoft entering the hardware market as a competitor, companies like Dell and HP have to be happy to have Windows 8 to design new hardware around.
What About Business?
Now that is a good question. As a consumer who loves to play with gadgets, the Windows 8 environment gets me pretty pumped. However, as an IT manager, I am less than enthusiastic about the business prospects for Windows 8. First of all, I think it is going to be a nightmare to implement. I know this might sound hypocritical considering I was touting its ability as a tablet and a desktop, but one major flaw I see with this OS is that you can’t turn off the tablet interface. Even if you are in the desktop mode, you are still forced to go into the tablet style startup screen to get to your programs and features. The desktop is minus one well known component that has been in Windows operating systems since Windows 95–the “Start” button. This is going to be a big learning curve, among other things, for the average worker. The expense of training employees and time it will take for IT to support users who are new to Windows 8 are two big negatives. The outlook isn’t all negative though. Windows 8 has much faster boot times and some really nice recovery options in case it gets infected with malware. If business users take advantage of the hybrid tablets, they will enjoy all the freedom of the mobile experience, but have the power of Microsoft apps they are used to using on their desktops.
I think Windows 8 is going to take off in a big way this fall. IT departments are going to have to be prepared with the onslaught of new devices hitting their networks around the first of next year. Let’s look on the bright side, maybe this will be the next big thing in IT and maybe it will help move our economy a little closer to the black. A guy can dream can’t he?