Transitioning to Windows 8 in the Enterprise

Windows 8 Libraires ConceptWindows 8 promises businesses much in the way of productivity, manageability, security, and cost. Windows 8 features full tablet and touch-screen functionality with a new tiles-based user interface (UI). It boots up in seconds. It has new personalization options and better support for multiple monitors, and it will work on any machine capable of running Windows 7.

While these advantages and upgrades are significant, companies cannot reasonably assume a smooth transition to the new operating system (OS) without facing certain challenges. Some users find the gesture-based commands, the lack of a start menu, and unfamiliar graphical rows and columns to be a daunting departure from the traditional point-and-click interface. Corporations will need to consider Windows 8’s strengths and their own capacity to retrain their staff against the short-term loss in productivity before taking the plunge into the OS.

Neowin recently took the Release Preview of Windows 8 into the corporate sector to demonstrate the OS to respective IT departments. The user’s knowledge of Windows 8 was varied; some had only read about it, while others had previously tried platform reviews. Not all of them believed Windows 8 was worth the trouble.

Many of the users praised Windows 8 as the “missing link” between the iPad and the laptop. The new OS allows users to dock at their desk, take a tablet during transit, and also dock at a remote office, all while enjoying access to everything they need. This mobility comes at the price of a UI that will appear alien to anyone familiar with prior Windows incarnations. Although Windows 8 functions adequately with a mouse and keyboard, it functions best with touch and large monitors.

Enterprises that are contemplating Windows 8 should consider two key areas. First, do they have the resources to grant touch-screens and large monitors to get the most out of the new UI? And second, can they absorb the cost and short-term loss of productivity involved in training staff to use the new OS?

The answers will vary, but Microsoft has a few lessons to teach from its own experience rolling out Windows 8 test builds to 30,000 of its own users. Contrary to assumption, this population was not composed purely of “techies” and engineers, but also of non-technical information workers. Microsoft used three methods to ease new users into Windows 8. The first of these was an internal moderated forum with the specialized intent of processing feedback and help requests more efficiently. Second, the IT staff adopted IT Easy Installer to expedite the installation experience with automation. Third, Microsoft provisioned 75 devices with Windows To Go and made them available to senior staff. This deployment allowed slate, laptop, and desktop configurations featuring screen, keyboard, and touch to create a transportable machine-specific experience.

Of course, not all enterprises will have the time, money, or personnel to construct and maintain this type of dedicated help desk. An enterprise wishing to adopt the new OS must prepare itself for increased training costs and short-term productivity loss. If it is unable or unwilling to take full advantage of Windows 8’s cross-device functionality and touch features, then they may wish to delay conversion until Windows 9.

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