Opinion: Chasing Upgrades – Windows 8

New Windows 8 logo image“Windows 8 is being released soon and it’ll compete with Android and iPhone!”
“Really? I heard it’s still only for desktops.”

Following on from the Windows 8 Editions announced last month, there’s been time to reflect on the whole subject of Windows 8; do you need it? Will you upgrade at home? More importantly to Microsoft, will you upgrade at work?

The Windows 8 Pro desktop, licensed per-seat or per-machine, is likely be too expensive for most small business owners (less than five employees), even those located in western Europe or US. This large target group will require Remote Desktop (host), EFS, BitLocker as well as some of those many other features Microsoft is reserving for the volume-licensed Enterprise version.

Not only that, but Microsoft persists in thinking that these people will upgrade to a Windows Server-based network just like they did in the ’90s. Many of us got by then without needing Windows Server for small business, things are even easier now.

Windows Consumer Preview 8 Metro UI start screenMeanwhile other parts of Microsoft are pushing cloud computing and selling the Enterprise version, with a very different licensing model, to any corporation that can afford it.

Windows XP is still just about in support and you can bet many organisations that have invested heavily in it still won’t want to move. In a global economic downturn, what board of directors wants to sign off on a cheque for software if they don’t have to? Not to mention the disruptions, the re-training of staff, the loss of continuity, the migration of legacy applications…

Remember when everyone flocked from Xp to Vista? Quite. Sure, there’s a lot of shiny Windows 8 machines around; all bundled with the hardware at time of purchase.

The new kids, skipping between XBox, smart-phones, Tivo, SkyPlus, Facebook on everything; those kids won’t have a problem adapting to Windows 8. They are used to things moving and changing, they are screen-literate, they’ll play with it ’til it works, or they break it. What about the rest of us?

Running Windows 8 consumer preview, it is an admirable piece of work. But I can see a lot of current users of XP, Vista (yes, you three) and especially Windows 7 /not/ upgrading.

Human Factors
The human factor cannot be ignored. For starters, there is the home screen labeled ‘start’, and no start button. However ludicrous that was, we’re used to it. Now it’s gone. We’ve not got a confusion of hotspots, hot corners, live tiles and a bizarre not-like-the-Apple-Finder that seems to involve a lot of typing wheh previously I had a nice set of cascading menus. Again and again, the question comes – ‘what is wrong with the Start menu?’

Sign in with a Hotmail or Windows Live account and you can stay connected all the time and everywhere.  But if I’d like to sign into the PC and not the Internet?  What if I dont necessarily have access to the Internet? Hm.

Outlook Cloudy
Skydrive is not in my experience a happy or reliable service; which is worrying for those looking at tablets with little storage running the thin  WindowsRT. Part of Microsoft is trying to push consumers to use a cloud (preferably Skydrive), part of it doesn’t want to be dragged into supporting millions of pesky consumers with all their whining about data loss.

Applications. Do you necessarily want apps that start all on their own, then stay resident because there’s no way to close them down? This is classic phone technology and it drags down your average desktop PC like you wouldn’t believe.  I have used Android tablets running this way – it’s not good.

A commenter alluded to the shift toward the Microsoft store and the potential for a gentle and on-going mugging for this and that feature to be added to Windows 8 or Microsoft’s applications. Sorry, but everyone is going that way; the micro-payments model will be part and parcel of software supply in future. How long can you put it off?

Next year’s financial results should be fascinating. AJS

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