In two weeks’ time, you’ll start to hear the marketing machine for Microsoft move into overdrive as they launch Windows 8 into general release. Not only will you hear from them, but also from the hardware manufacturers who are primed and ready to simultaneously release a whole new slew of products that will support and embrace the new functionality of Microsoft’s new baby. The question remains though, certainly for many corporates, what’s Windows 8 for? Shall I stop my Windows 7 deployment, or should I not even start Windows 7 and deploy Windows 8 instead?
So let’s start by covering (very briefly), what’s the big differences between Windows 7, (released this time in 09) & the new upstart are. Windows 7 & 8, are in many ways the same, though of course, Windows 8 has clearly evolved and the product has improved and been polished; it’s more secure, performs better and many other details have been added and enhanced, but fundamentally under the skin, it works and runs the same. So, whilst it looks different, (and it does, very different), it’s just as easy to integrate, manage, deploy and support as Windows 7 is right now.
Since Windows 7 was released, the world’s been taken by storm by a certain consumer product called the iPad, which started a whole new generation of tablet technology. The uber cool gadget has sold by the bucket load, and really caught Microsoft a bit off guard, as there desktop/laptop product just couldn’t provide a slick “touch experience”, and the hardware that the OEMs touted as competitive alternatives, frankly were anything but.
So what’s Windows 8 bringing? Microsoft have taken iPad, and it’s touch OS, and it’s integrated it’s strengths, added it to existing keyboard & mouse support than Windows did so well, and has also continued and developed digital stylus integration into the platform (hand writing to you and me). Effectively, Windows now supports touch and non-touch optimised applications; as well as work as usual with your existing corporate applications (it’s Win 7 underneath remember).
To make this all the more interesting, The next version of Office, (expect this Feb 13), will also support these modes, so as an example you’ll be able to annotate notes into a working document, or handwrite notes in a meeting and so on, then go back to your desk and dock your device and start working with it as a fully functioning PC. No more addendum devices required is the Microsoft vision, and probably one that works very well in reality.
This is where the OEM’s come in. You’ll start to see a whole new slew of devices shipping, Slates, and Ultrabooks that incorporate all these new features. They’ll be fully functional, fully powered devices, and with the design changes that have been developed, the improvements made in technology and manufacturing will mean you’re about to see thin, light, cool looking Windows devices that can empower and embrace a whole new way of working.
So, where’s this leave a customer in their wider deployment decision? Well, unless you’re planning on deploying touch screen enabled applications, (which clearly will come in time where appropriate) touch screens to support the new interface, there’s probably little immediate value in delaying and readying for Windows 8 and thus Windows 7’s still going to be your primary choice. Secondly, the application compatibility is excellent between Win 7 & 8, and so any work an organisation is doing here is only going to benefit them for Windows 8 in the future anyway.
No, Windows 8 right now is going to be all about Slates, a new sub-genre of device (part tablet/laptop/ultrabook) that’s unquestionably going to make a lot of organisations think about iPad, and whether it’s just going to be easier, simpler, and overall cheaper to just embrace and deploy a Windows 8 slate into their environment. I’ll let you know how I feel about this further when I get mine in the next few weeks.