Spoilt for Choice? A view on Windows 8

TSG’s CTO Steve Cox shares his thoughts on the weekend that Microsoft launches Windows 8. 

Everyone else is talking about it so we thought we probably should too. Although, we won’t be rushing out to upgrade our own users to Windows 8 or push it out to our customers just yet. Why? While others will jump on the launch day of any new product, our priority is to ensure that we get confirmation from the software vendors that their applications are signed off to work on the new operating system.

Our techies have been working with Windows 8 for some time, evaluating its features and most importantly developing a clear standard for configuration and implementation so that we get every installation right first time. With thousands of possible configurations the whole process, both for TSG and our software vendors, can take several months and hundreds of man hours.

Even if we’re ready for launch, we often have to wait for the vendors to complete their testing and we won’t rush into adopting any technology until we’re totally confident that it allows us to deliver the right solution at the right time. Let’s not forget that Windows 8 comes hot on the heels of Microsoft’s last big launch with Server 2012 landing back in September.

Thankfully at TSG we benefit massively from our scale, giving us the capacity, the people and the wide range of technical skills that mean we can invest the time and effort in to truly understanding these products so when we deliver to our customers you don’t just get the latest and greatest you get something that truly adds value to your business.

The really big question, in what has undoubtedly been a big year for Microsoft with more new product launches than at any other time, is whether the launch of Windows 8 will be one of the biggest potential game changers in their history. According to some the entire firm’s future could rest on the success of new operating system.

Over time, I think that Windows 8 has the potential to eat in to Apple’s market dominance in the tablet space as compatibility with business software and integration will be much greater than that of the iPad. Windows 8 brings a single user interface, common across desktop, laptop, tablet and phone allowing users to run the same apps on all compatible devices and that could allow Microsoft to build on their current dominance in the desktop market. It also runs on a multitude of manufacturers’ devices, not only Microsoft’s own Surface tablet, and that’s what could make the difference. The hardware manufacturers have been spending the last few months touting their new devices with a mind-boggling mixture of touchscreen laptops, convertibles, tablets and more innovative devices than I have ever seen.

Windows * screenshot

I have to ask whether all of them are necessary as it seems a little like if we make every combination of device from tablet to all-in-one desktop then whatever happens we will have a best seller on our hands. All of this leaves the consumer with lots of choice and with a lot of these new devices not available until December or January the true benefit comes then.

If you are considering migrating to Windows 8 then you’ll benefit from a whole new interface with a raft of new features and the platform is in place for some really cool apps to be developed over time. The new interface means that you’ll definitely need to give some consideration to staff training as your team will be used to working in a certain way through in a familiar environment. If it’s not properly planned, with a partner who knows how to execute, the disruption brought by the change may well outweigh the benefits.

For those who aren’t planning to adopt Windows 8, it’s still important to understand that it may have an impact on your IT environment. Why? Back to the proliferation and range of new devices that will almost inevitably find their way into your business – known in the industry as ‘bring your own device’ or BYOD. It’s essential to evaluate and address the compatibility and security issues that could result.

As with all things technology, the key is in getting the timing right and ensuring that it fits with your business strategy and goals.   Every business will be different and any change should be based on an evaluation of your requirements, so now is a good time to talk to your IT supplier – they should have done their homework, trained their people and be ahead of the game. Above all, it’s essential to make sure that all of your applications are supported by the software vendor on the operating platform you’re running so if you should run in to problems you know that you have somewhere to turn.