Windows 8 brings some big changes

It’s been almost a year since we first got a solid glimpse at Windows 8. While the release preview has been available for a number of months, many businesses have largely ignored it simply because their established systems were not supported. On October 26, Windows 8 was officially released and with it comes some big changes for all users.

Here’s five key business related aspects of Windows 8.

Windows 8 changes the desktop
The biggest change Windows 8 brings is the change to the desktop layout. Windows 8 defaults to a new touch-oriented layout that uses tiles similar to the ones found on their Windows Mobile operating systems. This change is an indication that Microsoft is going to be throwing considerable weight into the post-pc era, where devices like tablets and touchscreens work beside or replace conventional PCs.

This change from a file and folder oriented desktop to a tile oriented one could intimidate users who are unfamiliar with a mobile OS, or are less than comfortable with computers. It’s not like a user comfortable with XP or Windows 7 will be completely lost, as all of the existing programs that were icons on your desktop are now tiles with the icon clearly visible.

For those who are really uncomfortable with the new interface, pressing the Desktop tile will take you to the more traditional desktop Windows users might be more comfortable with. The best way to think of the desktop interface is Windows 7 with a mobile-ish overlay. Windows has noted that most Windows 7 programs will work just fine on Windows 8, however custom made programs may have issues and need to be upgraded to support the new layout. If you use custom made software, it is a good idea to contact the vendor/developer before upgrading.

Where’s the Start button?
With most versions of windows, the Start button, located in the bottom left of the screen, was how you launched all your programs and found the majority of your files. Windows 8 doesn’t have a physical start button, rather the new tile interface is the start menu. Now you just swipe to the tile/program, and click it to open.

For small businesses looking to introduce mobile apps targeted at tablet or other large touchscreen users, or integrate tablet devices into the office, Windows 8 makes sense. For most other companies, the adoption and learning curve may take time to get used to. Most users we talked to agree, but note that once they get used to it, it’s great.

Any new useful features?
There are a number of new features that many businesses will benefit from with adoption. Windows 8 focuses on collaboration and mobility more than almost any other OS. On the control side, administrators have a program called AppLocker which enables adminstrators to easily control employee’s access to files and programs, while pushing out updates to all computers at once.

Another interesting feature is that Windows 8 supports profile syncing through the cloud and USB sticks. Employees can sit down at any workstation, sync their profile and have access to their own system’s layout quickly and easily. Alternatively, they can use USB sticks to save their Windows session and have access to it when they plug in the USB. This makes the OS a lot more mobile.

While there are features of Windows 8 that businesses will utilize, it’s the programs that will define the success of this OS. Many businesses still use Microsoft XP and Microsoft has essentially stopped support for it. You’ll come across some issues when upgrading Microsoft programs. For example, if you use XP in the office and want to upgrade to Office 2013, you’ll have to upgrade to either Windows 7 or 8 (Microsoft would prefer it if you picked Windows 8).

This decision will force all vendors and software developers to either write two programs, one that supports XP, and the other that supports Windows 7 and 8. Most developers will likely just chose to drop support of XP. Essentially, this will force businesses to upgrade if they want support.

What about RT?
With the release of Windows 8, Microsoft also released a tablet oriented OS that’s based on Windows 8, Windows RT. The only difference is RT doesn’t run Windows desktop programs, rather it’s configured to run RT specific or cloud versions of programs. This could hamper collaboration between devices that run the two different systems. In other words, if you’re looking to upgrade, ensure the systems you choose are compatible. There will be a flood of Windows 8 tablets – tablets using Windows 8, not RT – and ultrabooks in the next few months.

How do I get Windows 8?
There are a number of options available to you if you would like to get windows 8. Retail users of Windows 7, XP and Vista can purchase a digital upgrade for USD$40 which they can download and install. For those who like their software to come in a box,the cost is USD$70. Most businesses should contact a vendor as they will likely need to upgrade other systems as well. If you’re looking to upgrade, give us a call, we can help.

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