Windows 8, the latest operating system from Microsoft, was released to manufacturing on the first of August. After going through several iterations of previews since last September, Microsoft deemed Windows 8 ready to be released to the public.
The new face of Windows incorporates many new elements, some of which (though few and far between) are improvements on the interface of Windows 7. However, many of the large changes implemented in Windows 8 will do little for your business other than put a stranglehold on productivity. Under the hood Windows 8 represents a huge leap forward for Microsoft in terms of security and management, which we love, but that doesn’t help your employees do their jobs.
The Start menu that has been a staple of Windows operating systems has been replaced with the “Metro” Start screen, and the default applications run through this interface.
Since Metro is designed for a tablet, any documents you view through it takes up the entire screen, and opening certain document types automatically defaults to Metro. Try loading two PDF files side-by-side using Microsofts built in viewer and you’ll be out of luck.
To further confuse end-users, Metro has its own applications. For instance, if you download Evernote from the Store, you will actually be getting the Metro version, not the desktop version. They’re two separate applications, and the Metro version has limited capabilities. You will need to download the desktop version for full functionality.
Try finding the Calculator when you’re on the Desktop. Can’t find it? Well, just go back to Metro, right click, select all apps, look for it, then open it. You’ll then need to add a link in Metro to make it easier to find next time. If you don’t love the idea of going back to Metro every time you want to launch an app, you will either need to manually find the application in Windows Explorer and create shortcuts on the desktop or task bar. Both of which will become horribly cluttered without the convenient filing system of the start menu.
The differences between Windows 8 and Windows 7 are immense. For previous Windows users, many of the basic functions have been changed, removing most aspects of the intuitiveness that has marked the more successful Microsoft’s OS releases.
This means training, and lots of it. The amount of end-user training that would be required to shift a work force to Windows 8 is immense. This point alone should be enough to steer most businesses clear of implementing Windows 8 on an organizational level.
In every version of Windows 8 that we have tested, we have encountered numerous compatibility issues with both hardware and software. Stability is also a problem issue in the new OS. While the new blue screen is nicer to look at than the old one, the fact that we see it at all is a testament to the stability of the OS. Older peripherals may work with Windows 7 drivers, but that could cause further instability. The OS does not run on screens less than 1024×800 (ironic for a tablet-focused OS), so your old netbook may be out of luck.
Windows 8 was clearly designed to conduct most of its operations from its new and frustrating Start screen, and the Start screen was clearly designed for tablets. Microsoft has claimed in its press events that the operating system was intended to bring unparalleled functionality to both tablets as well as PCs, but the OS certainly feels like it was made for tablets to the detriment of its desktop functionality. The ever present sidescrolling in the Start screen apps comes to mind, as do the full screen Metro apps the desktop defaults to.
Microsoft spent too much time worrying about the aesthetics of Windows 8, and too little worrying about the primary purpose of a business OS: productivity. We recommend that business users sit this one out, at least until the first service pack is released. Microsoft may give up pushing its latest effort to the workplace and move up a Windows 9 release. Do yourself and your business a favor by leaving Windows 8 on the shelf and stick to other IT solutions for the time being.