In a fortnight you’ll start to hear Microsoft's marketing machine crunching into overdrive as Windows 8 is driven onto the market.
Not only will you hear from them, but also from the hardware manufacturers who are primed and ready to simultaneously release a slew of products that will support and embrace the new functionality of Microsoft’s new baby.
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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 the big differences are between Windows 7 (released this time in '09) and the new upstart.
Windows 7 and 8, are in many ways the same, though of course, Windows 8 has clearly evolved, 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 bonnet, 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 has 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 has really caught Microsoft off-guard. Redmond's desktop/laptop OS just couldn’t provide a slick “touch experience”, and the hardware that the OEMs touted as competitive alternatives were frankly anything but.
So what’s Windows 8 bringing? Microsoft seems to have taken the iPad and its touch OS and integrated its strengths, tacking on the existing keyboard and mouse support that Windows did so well, and has also continued and developed digital stylus integration into the platform (handwriting to you and me). Effectively, Windows now supports touch and non-touch optimised applications – as well as being able to 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 – expected on 13 February – will also support these modes. 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 under the Microsoft vision, and probably one that works very well in reality.
This is where the OEMs come in. You’ll start to see a whole new slew of devices shipping – slates, slabs and Ultrabooks that incorporate all these new features. They’ll be fully functional, fully powered devices, and the new design changes paired with the improvements in technology and manufacturing will mean you’re about to see thin, light, slick-looking Windows devices.
So, where does this leave a customer in their wider deployment decision? Well, unless you’re planning on deploying touchscreen-enabled applications – which clearly will come in time – 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 between Win 7 & 8 is excellent, and so any work an organisation is doing on 7 will only benefit it in any future Windows 8 deployment.
Windows 8 right now is going to be all about slates, a new sub-genre of device (part tablet/laptop/Ultrabook) that is unquestionably going to make a lot of organisations think about the iPad. A lot of enterprise customers are bound to be considering whether it'll be easier, simpler and cheaper to simply embrace and deploy a Windows 8 slate in their corporate environment.
I’ll let you know how I feel about this when I get mine in the next few weeks. ®