Making sense of Windows 8
Given the trends above, it is easy to see where Microsoft is going. Windows 8 today is clearly targeted at smaller, lighter, touch-based devices like slates or tablet PCs. It is a consumer-focused release, targeted clearly at the consumer market. This is also the market where iPad is being sold in large volumes. With Windows on ARM (WOA) especially, Microsoft is hoping they have a good competitor to the iPad. For touch-enabled devices, it is clear that Windows 8 will work very well. The assumption of course, is that there are enough Metro apps and enough of the control panel settings are available to be used on the Metro side of Windows 8, thereby reducing the need to dip into the Desktop.
Having said that, we know that laptops, Ultrabooks and similar non-touch devices are not suddenly going out of style. For such devices, with a little bit of learning of new gestures, Windows 8 works reasonably well. The old keyboard combinations are going to be used more and the new mouse gestures will be put in practice more. For the casual user, as long as there are compelling apps in the Windows Store, Windows 8 should be ok. Worth going out and getting a new PC just for Windows 8? Perhaps not. Worth considering a Windows 8 tablet in the holiday season instead of an iPad? Perhaps so.
The issue will remain for the power users – those who use laptops for development, or those who have multiple monitors, or those who work on large monitors – where they will have to work with the dual interfaces, the long mouse traversal, etc. This group is definitely a small percentage of the overall non-enterprise Windows users. These power users will have to get used to the keyboard shortcuts and the occasional switching between the Desktop, presumably their primary environment, and the Metro Start Screen. This group is also perhaps going to be the most vocally against the new operating system unless there is a way for them to turn off Metro Start Screen.
As for enterprises, and IT pros within such enterprises, we can make a safe assumption that they are not going to move to Windows 8 for a few years. As a result, this release can be considered a warning sign for them, a reminder for what’s coming up. They can plan on their Windows 8 strategy starting now, implement Windows 7 now, and have Windows 8 come 3-4 years later. They have enough time to come up with a plan for supporting their legacy LOB apps, either by porting them to Metro style, or coming up with an alternate strategy like Hyper-V. They will also have time to look at how Windows 8 works with consumers and create a training and support plan for Windows 8 in their enterprises. In other words, I am assuming that enterprises won’t be moving to Windows 8 until a few years from now, and by then, Microsoft may even get a chance to release a service pack which may address some of the business needs which may not be covered in the initial release.