The Windows 7 or 8 quandary?

With the very recent release of Windows 8, many companies that haven’t started moving to Windows 7 already will surely be asking themselves; “should I deploy Windows 7 or Windows 8”? In fact, only this last week I’ve been asked this very question twice by customers. So, assuming you’re not one of the 50% of organisations already committed to Windows 7, what should your organisation consider doing? Which is the right choice and why?

It’s no coincidence that any new version of Windows is ready and available to supply to Microsoft’s OEM channel partners in September of any given year.  Christmas will soon be upon us all, and there are presents to be bought, whether for loved ones (or ourselves!) and this gives you a good indication of who Windows 8 is primarily aimed at in this first wave of enablement.  In fact, (as warned previously), you’ll no doubt have seen the Windows 8/Surface/Windows 8 phone campaigns begin in earnest, entirely to this end, to sell to home/consumer users. Uptake in consumers drives uptake in business, a lesson that Microsoft learnt a long time ago.

With Windows XP the predominant operating system for the vast majority of the remaining 50% of companies yet to upgrade, and with Windows XP support ceasing in April 2014, that gives these customers around 16 months with which to try and get off the older platform if possible, (of course, some won’t make it in time given their organisations size and plethora of legacy applications).  A typical 2000 seat organisation for reference takes around 12 months to plan, design, test, enable and deploy Windows 7; though don’t quote me if you don’t plan and prepare well enough. (You’ve been warned).

Windows 8 clearly brings some very attractive features for enterprise, specifically of interest are the following : –

  • quicker boot up, stability and performance of the OS
  • Improved security
  • The improved search function (which is really excellent)
  • Internet Explorer 10
  • Longer support lifecycle(remember it’s 10 years from release for any MS product)
  • Windows 8 to go – allowing boot from USB drives
  • Internal application store for self service applications of your apps
  • Touch UI for touch enabled applications (such as Office 2013)

Having used Windows 8 for some time now, (on both touch optimised device, and non-touch optimised device), without doubt, Windows 8 is better with a touch experience.  Yes, the Windows Modern UI is excellent, but there are functions and features you still need a keyboard and mouse for to make the experience less irksome.  Secondly, there is a learning curve with Windows 8; things aren’t where you’re going to expect them to be or do what you expect them to do sometimes.

As an example when I gave my wife a Windows 8 device initially, she didn’t like the experience at all, yearning for the ways she’s used for as long as she’s used a PC (which is a long time….. ).  Other experienced long term users  of Windows also report much the same, (me included).  With consumer deployment well established in perhaps 12 months’ time you’ll probably not have this problem but if you’re considering going early, you’ve got to consider the learning curve and factor in additional training costs.

Finally (as this is just a blog, not a whitepaper), it’s likely your existing hardware estate of the last few years will support Windows 8 right out of the box, in fact, I doubt you’ll struggle to make it run on equipment of up to 5 years of age, these devices however won’t have touch. The early devices that have touch are going to be great, but will be improved upon, and of course, importantly will come down in price, so again, Windows 8 touch optimised kit will come with a premium on your typical laptop cost of say £500 per device, with many slates likely to be £800 and upwards initially.

Right now, it’s most likely that Windows 7 offers most organisations the best choice for their corporate desktop deployment and Windows 8 for slates, Ultrabooks and touch enabled devices.  Windows to go might also offer you some benefit for flexible/home working practices (without the cost of additional hardware supply on the company’s part).

Windows 8 offers some great technology and features, but the added time, complexity of readiness (some features) and costs involved just make it another unnecessary time delay and barrier to deploying a supported and stable platform.  For these reasons; unless you have specific scenario that would be of benefit on Windows 8, Windows 7 remains my recommended platform of choice for the vast majority of your business.

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