Businesses should start using Windows 8 now

Businesses should start using Windows 8 now

Summary: Too many companies failed to prepare for Windows 7 and they are now paying the price. Starting some small pilot projects to explore the major changes in Windows 8 could ensure they don't repeat their mistakes.

TOPICS: Windows, Microsoft

Many businesses appear to have got the transition from Windows XP to Windows 7 wrong, which has almost certainly cost them significant sums in lost productivity and increased support costs. The question now is whether they're going to make the same mistakes again when it comes to making the transition from Windows 7 to Windows 9 or possibly 10.

Perhaps today's not-quite-so-smart companies could emulate yesterday's smarter ones and scout their route in advance? This means exploring Windows 8 now, and perhaps adopting it for some small pilot projects. Nobody is proposing enterprise-wide roll-outs at this stage, not even Microsoft.

Even so, businesses should already be testing their Windows 7 apps for compatibility, and making sure they're not developing programs that won't work with Windows 8 and Internet Explorer 10. They should also be getting some experience of programming apps for the new applications programming interface, WinRT, and the workings of the Windows app store. There may even be commercial or promotional opportunities in developing cheap or free apps for consumers, especially if these can easily be derived from current Silverlight apps or web properties.

Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer with an 82in Perceptive Pixel screen running Windows 8
Microsoft's Steve Ballmer with an 82in Perceptive Pixel screen running Windows 8. Credit: Microsoft

Yes, we know Windows 7 will be around for the rest of the decade, with extended (paid for) support starting on 12 January 2015. However, Windows 8 involves some significant shifts in technology compared with the relatively minor upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7. These include the new API (WinRT), new UI (Metro-style user interface), new type of CPU (the ARM processor), new distribution system (Windows Store), new form factors (eg tablets like the Microsoft Surface) and new companion devices (such as smartphones running Windows Phone 8).

These innovations are likely to create new problems, but they may also provide new opportunities and new solutions.

Many of these opportunities will be mobile, and some will exploit the new touch-based user interface. Examples from my recent blog post (Windows 8's enterprise play: evolution not revolution) include BT issuing field engineering staff with touch-screen convertibles, and Poste Italiane providing business-to-business sales reps with customer relationship apps developed in house.

Several American companies have also been working with Microsoft on early-experience projects including Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution, Johnson & Johnson Services, Rooms To Go, Bank of America and PCL Constructors.

Windows 8 Start with company logos
Some US companies are using Windows 8 in early experience projects. Credit: Microsoft

Johnson & Johnson has published a new Windows 8 app for consumers, Digital Health Scorecard, via the Windows Store. Furniture retailer Rooms To Go a has developed Windows 8 line-of-business apps that sales staff can use by the customer's side, and Bank of America Mobile has published a mobile banking app for Windows 8. PCL's Safety Management Center enables field staff "to record observations while on the construction site and simultaneously fill out inspection forms remotely".

Most substantial businesses should be able to find small projects where a new app will rapidly repay the investment, especially if they can use Windows 8's tablet features. However, the real point is not to make money, but to gather experience and to make sure that today's IT developments are aligned with the likely future.

And from the point of view of publicity, feedback and industry (or Microsoft) support, it's much better to try these experiments as one of 1,000 companies than as one in 10,000,000.

This is basically the advice as I gave for Vista, and I think that the companies that used and tested Vista (without adopting it) were in a much better position to take advantage of Windows 7 than the ones who stuck their heads in the sand over Windows XP, and are now entering what Gartner calls the "XP danger zone". Seriously, if you're in a hole now, what have you been doing in the six years since Windows Vista Beta 2 was released in May 2006?

Denial doesn't get you anywhere. Worse, it can make it harder, and more stressful, and more expensive to move on when moving on finally becomes unavoidable.


Topics: Windows, Microsoft

Jack Schofield

About Jack Schofield

Jack Schofield spent the 1970s editing photography magazines before becoming editor of an early UK computer magazine, Practical Computing. In 1983, he started writing a weekly computer column for the Guardian, and joined the staff to launch the newspaper's weekly computer supplement in 1985. This section launched the Guardian’s first website and, in 2001, its first real blog. When the printed section was dropped after 25 years and a couple of reincarnations, he felt it was a time for a change....

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  • Totally unsupported presumption

    "Many businesses appear to have got the transition from Windows XP to Windows 7 wrong, which has almost certainly cost them significant sums in lost productivity and increased support costs."

    So you write this sentence, offer no supporting evidence of any kind, and proceed to lecture companies on the need to spend some money by upgrading.

    It strikes me as both arrogant and ignorant. It is pretty easy to dismiss you as just another MS shill or fan boy. If you do have a real case, you need to do a MUCH better job presenting it.
    • Actually he is right

      The license is already paid for under EA agreement with most larger companies. The Win 8 is backward compatible with Win7 for applications, so no learning curve there.

      A quick 5 minute orientation and cheat sheet is all you need to start becoming productive. It not all that complex as other writers want you to believe. Early pilot is the safest way to get into it, and will minimize future issues.
      • Actually...

        Agreed. As an early adopter, I would have REALLY appreciated a simple jpeg / .rtf file that could easily be pulled up using native programs that came on win 8 CP/RP and now, PRO without installing Office.
        Crashin Chris
      • No learning curve?

        Ninjacut, you must be kidding (or work for Microsoft). No learning curve for Windows 8? With no Start Menu, no apparent way to close an application, and no apparent way to shut down the computer, A Windows 7 convert will definitely have a learning curve. Even with Classic Shell installed, there is a learning curve. Five minutes of training will work for techies like us, but not for Sally Creamcheese in the Accounting department.
        • It takes 5 minutes to learn the Win 8 interface

          Ninjacut is right. The interface isn't rocket science and it takes a few minutes to learn the interface. AND you definitely can close apps (just drag it down) .
    • It's definitely true when comes to XP to Win7 compatibility

      Programs that run on old XP security paradigm will definitely have issue with Win7. For example, under the new security model, program shouldn't write anything to Program folder and system32 but only to AppData or user's temp folder. Those XP era programs under Vista/Win7/Win8 will either trigger UAC prompt constantly or require turning off UAC to work. (if not totally break the program altogether)

      Yes, XP mode and Application Compatibility Toolkit can help but that will required addictional testing before upgrade. So "Transition from Windows XP to Windows 7 wrong" will definitely cost them in lost productivity or support costs.
      • The switch from XP to Vista

        was much pain for very little gain. As a result the enterprise avoided it.

        Win7 has too things going for it; much better pacakge than Vista and XP was dropping out of support.

        Win8 offers a new UI which little commerical value; a repeat of Win8 for business, maybe attractive to consumers (time will tell).

        It is difficult to believe these changes won't be unwound in Win9 (look at the names departing the unit). Why would anyone spend money evaluating it? From an enterprise perspective it is another ME / Vista.
        Richard Flude
        • Nothing like Me or Vista

          Windows 8 has two programming models and user interfaces. Desktop and Win32 are a natural evolution of what we've known since Windows 95, this time with the Start button removed, which isn't a big deal. Modern UI, née Metro, and WinRT are very different full screen apps that go to sleep when not in the foreground, among other attributes.

          Whether or not enterprises, smaller businesses, and consumers adopt Windows 8, it works and it works well. It's faster or at worst no slower than Windows 7 for most applications on the same hardware, and it's more secure than Windows 7.

          Me, often called Mistake Edition, and Vista, whether or not you liked or wanted to use them, did not work when released. Me was a good way to kill off the DOS/Windows 95/98 line and move to the NT kernel, and in addition to Vista not working when released, video and other drivers didn't work either. Windows 8, on the other hand, might not be liked, used, or bought, but it works very well.
  • Businesses to Adopt Win 8 RT

    I respectfully disagree. I agree they should go all in - When Win 8 Pro ships on desktops as well as Slate type in Q1 2K13.
    Crashin Chris
  • Opinion: Businesses should start using Windows 8 now

    Completely agree. I'm pushing for Microsoft Windows 8 at our company. No sense to go with Microsoft Windows 7 at this point when Windows 8 is here and will have longer support not to mention it is the direction Microsoft is going in.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • Of course

      You are a shill/fan boy. If anybody mentions the term cost/benefit to you, all they get back is a blank, clueless stare.
      • does not make sense

        why you dismiss opportunity. Imagine you are an IT at the company and you made metro UI app that tells status of your servers. When you are meeting and have your tablet you can see in live tile the status is green for all your servers, you can see with easy metro ui the web servers up, you can make the metro tile to go red for example to show you that a server is down in real time. Not to mention the opportunities that exist in hospitals and doctors carrying Surface pro, writing with digital pen and looking at your medical record with touch metro ui.
        I just can't understand why people resist competition and they like to just defend their preference as if it is their religion.
      • The advantages of Windows 8 far outweigh the disadvantages

        Windows 8 has a learning curve - that's a given, and we all know that. But it also has many significant advantages over Windows 7. You make it sound as though the extra learning curve is a big hurdle in terms of training costs, without taking into account that the long terms costs could easily be significant lower by moving to Windows 8.

        Look at the recent example of BT - a big enterprise company that has switched to Windows 8 because of the significant benefits which make the cost of new hardware and training worthwhile. The following are just estimates... Imagine that you have 4500 mobile engineers, and Windows 8 saves each engineer one hour per day (I'm working this out as 10 minutes saved per job, 6 jobs per day). That's a potential saving of 1.6 million man-hours per year (or to put it another way, it allows each engineer time to carry out 1 extra job per day). And that's just the time saving aspect. The investment in the hardware, infrastructure services, and training, will probably pay for itself within six months.

        The point about Windows 8 is that it doesn't have to replace ALL your older stuff. It allows businesses to roll out Windows 8 where it makes sense to do so, whilst still playing nicely with all their existing back-end systems and being able to utilise all their existing legacy software applications.
      • ANTI-Fan

        D.T. Long, you are an ANTI-Fan of anything Microsoft... Or is it just anything NEW? You probably still have an old CRT on your desk and a 29" Zenith TV!

        Get over it!! Put down that iPad and quit complaining about anything non-apple!
  • Our referesh cycles don't align with Win 8.

    This article seems like odd advice, given that we have just moved from XP to 7. We update our systems based on a standard refresh cycle or only if there is demonstrable productivity benefit from that update.

    Thus far beta testing and community previews of 8 show nothing to recommend it over 7 - - and in fact, there are many needless changes which will cause confusion among our users. Given what I have heard from our testers, the constant flak we have received over the ribbon will be nothing compared to teh complaints we will be getting from metro.

    Our current plan is to skip 8 entirely and move to 9 once microsoft has realized that metro may be fine for consumer tablets but that productivity - - in the form of a desktop environment - - is what business needs.

    Of course the plan will be amended based on what microsoft releases and how close it adheres to our productivity requirements.

    Thats how it really works in business.

    • Don't disagree...

      I don't disagree about skipping Windows 8, but I do think it's a big mistake to regard the Start screen as nothing more than an interruption on the way to the desktop. Metro-style apps can be developed very quickly, they're sandboxed, and they can be extremely productive. It's a really fast way to do simple things. (Check out the Bing apps.)

      You should also be wary of initial responses. It seems to me that most people like Windows 8 a lot more after (say) three months than after three days. They especially like it after they've got used to some Metro-style apps.

      If they never look for any, or never find any, then I assume they'll continue to hate it. Pretty much the same as the people who rejected Windows because MS DOS ran their business software....
      Jack Schofield
      • About those apps...

        That's right, Jack. Just wait until the punters get a load of those metro-style apps.

        Like how about the ones supplied with Windows 8 itself, such as Finance, Weather, Travel, News and so on for starters? You know, the ones that come with (drum roll, please...) ADVERTS!!!

        Yep, you've paid good hard money for the OS, and its included apps are shoving freakin' ads at you! Ugly, irritating and impossible to turn off.

        I mean, who wouldn't want to queue up in the rain for some of *that*?
        • Give me some examples...

          with some of your own screenshots, please. I think you're just spouting opinions based on ignorance. You've never actually used Windows 8, have you?
          Jack Schofield
          • Ads

            Not since the Release Preview, and no, I don't recall seeing the ads there.

            My source for this is Paul Thurrot's Windows Supersite:


            You're not going to try and paint *him* as some Apple/Linux fanboi/troll are you?
    • Did you read the article?

      His advice was to do pilot projects with Windows 8, but to neither adopt it wholesale or completely ignore it. That is not odd advice. That's good advice.

      I would not hold my breath expecting Microsoft to materially change the dual modes of Windows 8 in Windows 9. The strategy of providing the ability to run the same apps on your desktop computer that you run on your tablet is sound. The Windows 8 UI for keyboard/mouse needs work, and I think you'll see a lot of that in Windows 9 if not sooner. There will probably be work to make the dual personalities of Windows 8 less jarring in Windows 9. But the trend toward mobile and sandboxed native apps is unstoppable, and Windows 8 is well positioned to allow companies to transition in that direction as needs arise. And enterprise developers can apply the skills they already have to Windows 8 development.