Windows 10 : Windows 8 :: Windows 7 : Windows Vista

I’ve been using the Windows 10 Technical/Insider Previews (slow ring, now build 10130) on my primary work laptop since October, and it’s clear to me that in Windows 10 Microsoft has successfully salvaged the Metro/WinRT technology, introduced with Windows 8, to create a winning new OS version.

by Peter Schay, President and CEO of TAC.

I’ve been using the Windows 10 Technical/Insider Previews (slow ring, now build 10130) on my primary work laptop since October, and it’s clear to me that in Windows 10 Microsoft has successfully salvaged the Metro/WinRT technology, introduced with Windows 8, to create a winning new OS version.

Beginning with the introduction of Windows Vista in 2007, Microsoft seems to have fallen into a cycle of overreaching “failure” followed by corrective success in its Windows versions (keeping in mind that for Windows, “failure” still means hundreds of millions sold).

(I should point out that, in the case of Vista, TAC was far more positive in our assessment than most pundits at the time [see SmartTip “Cutting through the Nonsense about Windows Vista, Windows 7, etc.”].)

As explained in the SmartTip cited above, the highly successful Windows 7 is basically a “cleaned up” version of what Vista should have been, with mostly incremental improvements. The one major new feature in Windows 7, Windows XP Mode, was added specifically to address the application software compatibility problems that plagued Vista.

Our advice regarding Windows 8 was, like the product itself, bifurcated. Microsoft’s emphasis on the “mobile first,” touch-oriented Modern (a.k.a. Metro) side of Windows 8 was an immense turn-off for desktop users with non-touch PCs, i.e., most of the Windows-using world. At the same time, the development of the Modern environment was an absolutely essential strategic move for Microsoft in the face of the Apple iPad and various Google Android tablet devices. (See the blog postings below, “Windows 8, BYOD, and IT Leadership,” “Yes, Windows 8 Is Bad…,” “Windows Reimagined,” and “A Learning Curve with Windows 8? Much Ado About Nothing, but Stick With Windows 7 for the Enterprise,” for our comments at the time.)

Now, on the threshold of the July 29 general availability of Windows 10, there is no doubt that Windows 10 is to Windows 8 as Windows 7 was to Windows Vista. The clunky awkwardness of the dual Windows 8 environments has evolved into a more-or-less seamless — and far more desktop friendly — experience which, on 2-in-1 devices (e.g., Microsoft Surface 3, Lenovo Yoga) includes the “Continuum” capability of automatically adjusting on-the-fly to changes in physical configuration.

Bottom line, Windows 10 is a winner. Any organization that has not yet deployed Windows 8 devices should wait for Windows 10.

A Learning Curve for Windows 8? Much Ado About Nothing, but Stick With Windows 7 for the Enterprise

Windows 8 really doesn’t bring anything new to the table of advantage to the enterprise. From a productivity standpoint, why introduce change and a learning curve, steep or otherwise, that returns no net return on productivity? The new Metro “Apps” have no useful place in the enterprise and were designed primarily for the consumer market, and for administrators, locking down these apps looks daunting.

I try to be an early adopter, as long as the cost is low. So when I had the opportunity to upgrade my personal laptop to Windows 8 for $15 (I had recently purchased 2 laptops, and Microsoft offers the $15 upgrade to recent purchasers of machines running Window 7), I took the plunge. After reading about the increased security, I knew I should do it for that reason alone. And after reading all the reviews about a steep learning curve, new “Apps”, and how it would be so different running it on a laptop as opposed to a tablet or touch screen device, I decided to do the upgrade anyway.

The upgrade itself was no big deal. The installation was effortless (I created media from which to do the install, one of the options available) but took a long time, since I elected to keep all of my files and settings. Once the laptop rebooted, I took to conquering the so-called steep learning curve, how the new Metro interface would change things forever on the laptop.

For anyone using a tablet of any kind, the learning curve is minimal. For those that have never used a tablet, the learning curve could be steeper, but it really isn’t that daunting.

Microsoft has essentially set up an “invisible” start button in the lower left hand corner of the screen that, when clicked with a mouse, opens the start screen instead of a start menu. Microsoft also starts you on the start screen instead of your old desktop. When on the desktop, nothing at all changed for me. It looks the same as my windows 7 desktop, minus the start button. All of the old keyboard commands and shortcuts work as they used to, all of my applications are the same, the only two real changes were that there is no “Aero Glass” look to the windows, and all the rounded corners are gone.

I haven’t really come up against anything I don’t like about windows 8. Boot times are much faster, the start page is easy to navigate, and the opening screen, with clock and background apps, gives me a great first glance at the day ahead, without even unlocking my account.

That being said, I would stay with Windows 7 for new desktop and laptop upgrades for the enterprise. Here’s why:

Eye candy aside, Windows 8 really doesn’t bring anything new to the table of advantage to the enterprise. From a productivity standpoint, why introduce change and a learning curve, steep or otherwise, that returns no net return on productivity? The new Metro “Apps” have no useful place in the enterprise and were designed primarily for the consumer market, and for administrators, locking down these apps looks daunting. The new version of IE10, while pretty, also takes time to learn to use properly and effectively, another learning curve with no net gain.

So while I will use Windows 8 on my own personal laptop, Windows 7 remains the choice for the enterprise.

Windows Reimagined

Windows 8 is about moving real Windows (in contrast to Windows CE derivatives such as Windows Phone) downscale — to mobile, consumer-oriented devices. The disruptive “Metro” user experience is the most visible aspect of this strategy, but only part of the big picture.

by Peter Schay, President and CEO of TAC.

The first television ad for Microsoft Windows 8, ending with the tag line “Windows reimagined,” appeared this weekend. With its rapid video cuts, high-energy music, exploding laptop PC, children and teens playing games and videos, humorous photos, children creating artwork, etc., the ad says a lot about Microsoft’s strategy with Windows 8.

The term “reimagine” is one that Microsoft has been using since the first public demonstration of Windows 8 in June 2011. Windows 8 represents the most dramatic change in Windows since Windows NT in 1993 — but in a very different direction.

Windows NT was about bringing robust, enterprise-class operating system technology to what had previously been a fragile kludge-tower of inherently limited and insecure software. Ironically, key capabilities of NT, such as the Hardware Abstraction Layer to simplify porting to multiple processor architectures, and the ability to support multiple simultaneous API subsystems (including POSIX and OS/2 subsystems in early versions of NT), have been underutilized for years, but are the foundation for Windows 8 support of the ARM architecture and side-by-side WinRT and Win32 API subsystems.

In contrast to Windows NT, with its focus on moving upscale, Windows 8 is about moving real Windows (in contrast to Windows CE derivatives such as Windows Phone) downscale — to mobile, consumer-oriented devices. The disruptive “Metro” user experience is the most visible aspect of this strategy, but only part of the big picture.

Although the development of Windows 8 began almost a year before the appearance of the Apple iPad, one helpful way of thinking about Windows 8 is as an iPad competitor that also runs legacy Windows applications. The usage model of the iPad is as a mobile, consumer device used primary for entertainment and education (reading books, watching movies, playing games, video chats with friends, light editing and sharing of personal photos, web browsing, etc.), on which one can also read and reply to e-mail. The Metro/WinRT environment is designed for that usage model.

With PC sales essentially flat, success in the mobile device market is a strategic imperative for Microsoft. That does not, however, necessarily make adoption of Windows 8 a strategic imperative for enterprise or small/midsize business IT.

As I wrote in previous blog postings, the primary near-term opportunity for Windows 8 in business is as a platform for internal-use tablet applications — where a credible business case can be demonstrated for those applications. Unlike iPad and Google Android-based tablet devices, Windows 8 devices can be programmed and managed with tools already familiar to IT development and operations teams, significantly improving the practicality of enterprise tablet deployments.

Notwithstanding the various bells and whistles which have been added for the desktop environment in Windows 8 (faster boot, improved file explorer, improved task manager [my favorite], file history, etc.), none of them are compelling enough to put users through the disruption of introducing the Metro environment — which is unavoidable even for those whose intent is to “live in the desktop.”

The big open question about Windows 8 is the extent that it will succeed at making Microsoft a major player in the consumer tablet market. We will know that when end users start asking IT to add Windows 8 to the bring-your-own-device list.

Yes, Windows 8 Is Bad…

businesses could be well served by treating Windows 8, like Windows Vista, as a “let’s skip this one” version. Let’s give Microsoft a chance to get it right on the desktop-Metro coexistence, which is just plain sub-optimal in Windows 8.

by Peter Schay, President and CEO of TAC

I’ve been using the Windows 8 Release Preview — on and off — since it became available on May 31. The hardware I’m running it on is a Dell Latitude E6420 — i.e., a typical modern enterprise laptop, with no touchscreen.

Why have I been using Windows 8 “on and off”? Partly, it’s to avoid the buggy-ness to be expected in any pre-release software (e.g., IE 10 crashes when I try to print from it). The other part, however, is that for someone who “lives on the desktop,” the constant switching back and forth between the Metro start screen and the desktop is an annoying drag on productivity.

I’m about to install Stardock Start8, to see how well that addresses switching-to-the-Metro-start-screen issue, but this strikes me as symptomatic of a larger issue — that Microsoft really has made the desktop a second-class citizen in Windows 8 — intentionally or otherwise.

Don’t get me wrong — Windows 8 is a “must do” for Microsoft, with the potential to move them from a far-behind to a leadership position on tablet computers and devices. As I observed in my previous blog posting, “Windows 8, BYOD, and IT Leadership,” Windows 8 is the first truly enterprise-oriented tablet OS, and it deserves a high level of uptake in this role.

I will say, however, that when it comes to desktops and non-touch laptops, businesses could be well served by treating Windows 8, like Windows Vista, as a “let’s skip this one” version. (I should point out, by the way, that I was not anti-Vista, see my SmartTipWindows Vista, Windows 7, etc. Revisited.”) Let’s give Microsoft a chance to get it right on the desktop-Metro coexistence, which is just plain sub-optimal in Windows 8.

PS, while it is a “don’t care” from a productivity standpoint, I personally would love to see Microsoft reconsider the removal of transparency of window borders they’ve announced for RTM. I understand the rationale that it chews-up battery power, but as someone who runs on battery less than 5% of the time I’m on the computer, I’d really like the option to keep that bit of eye candy when plugged-in.

Windows 8, BYOD, and IT Leadership

The arrival of the Windows 8 Release Preview — with its corresponding app development tools — heralds a new phase in the acceptance of mobile form-factors into enterprise computing.

by Peter Schay, President and CEO of TAC.

The arrival of the Windows 8 Release Preview — with its corresponding app development tools — heralds a new phase in the acceptance of mobile form-factors into enterprise computing.

For several years, IT organizations have faced an acceleration of demand for “bring your own device” (BYOD) support — first for smartphones, then for tablets — driven by the consumer appeal of devices such as the Apple iPhone and iPad. While superficially “driven by the business,” expenditures on IT resources to support end-user BYOD demands usually violate the second principle I wrote about in my previous blog posting: IT projects should only be initiated when there will be a measurable financial benefit to the enterprise.

BYOD is a different issue, of course, from those leading-edge enterprises, primarily in consumer markets, that have developed mobile apps for marketing and customer-service purposes. One could presume that they did so only after developing credible business cases for those investments (although I suspect that many were done to “get on the bandwagon” without a convincing financial analysis).

One of the challenges facing IT when it comes to embracing the current dominant mobile platforms — Google Android for non-Apple smartphones, and Apple iOS for iPhone and iPad — is that these systems are alien technologies to their current staff. Also, these platforms were not designed with a goal of fitting easily into enterprise architectures. These factors have, I believe, discouraged IT leaders from thinking proactively about how mobile technologies can be used within the enterprise to create business value.

Windows 8, on the other hand, will shift the balance, particularly with regard to internal tablet applications. With most enterprises in the throes of Windows XP to Windows 7 migrations at the desktop, we expect that it will be several years before enterprises give much thought to a desktop migration to Windows 8. For tablet applications, however, Windows 8 brings a whole new ball game. Although the programming style for Windows 8 “Metro” apps is different than for traditional Windows applications, Windows 8 is designed to fit seamlessly into current enterprise environments, using the same applications development and systems management tools with which IT organizations are familar.

This gives savvy IT leaders — those who have followed our advice and “kept their ear to the ground” by maintaining close relationships with their business peers, and understanding the problems the business is facing — the opportunity to think creatively about how tablet devices (running Windows 8) could be used internally to drive business value. It is time for IT leaders to get out in front and lead, not just react to the BYOD clamor.

Please let us know if you would like to discuss these ideas with one of our Experts.