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3/27/2013
11:52 AM
Kevin Casey
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Tell Me Again: Why Rush Into Windows 8?

Windows Blue might signal a bold new future for touch computing, but it doesn't exactly inspire a quick upgrade to Windows 8 for traditional users like me.

6 Reasons To Want Windows 8 Ultrabooks
6 Reasons To Want Windows 8 Ultrabooks
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
It's like the old saying goes: Nothing generates excitement quite like leaked screenshots of a vaguely named future Windows release published to a Polish tech website.

What's that? That's not a saying? Oh. Nonetheless, there was a minor Internet riot last weekend over leaked information about Microsoft's Windows Blue, the upcoming release of -- well, no one outside of Redmond really knows. It's not really a service pack and it's not really Windows 9, seems to be the general opinion. It's ... it's... I'm not quite sure what it is, so I asked Forrester senior analyst David Johnson for his take.

"Microsoft is on a journey here toward a newer OS and interaction model, and this leak shows us a little bit more about how that's going to go," Johnson said in an email. "Microsoft clearly wants touch to be a rich, primary way for people to interact with the Windows environment in the future."

No doubt, Microsoft appears to be doubling down on the touch-centric nature of the Windows 8 family, and Windows Blue -- also known as "Build 9364" -- is the next leg of a bigger-picture journey. Microsoft said as much on Wednesday in a blog post acknowledging Blue's existence. "This continuous development cycle is the new normal across Microsoft -- we’ll tune everyday experiences as well as introduce bold, connected and exciting new scenarios," wrote corporate communications VP Frank X. Shaw.

[ Ride along on one user's test drive of a Windows 8 portable. Read Windows 8 Convertible: My 3-Month Test Drive. ]

The nagging question: Why should I join the ride any time soon when Windows 7 already gets me where I need to go? (In the spirit of the travel metaphor, I should probably note that I drive a much-loved 2002 Honda Civic and have no plans to trade it in. That somehow seems relevant here.)

There are some exciting possibilities in the apparent future of Windows. There's also the distinct possibility that "PC people" -- those of us who still get our work done on laptops and desktops, me included, are definitely on the outs. That was among my key reasons for not making plans to upgrade to Windows 8. Windows Blue, while perhaps signifying a brave new world for Microsoft, underscores this issue rather than alleviates it.

"The most interesting thing for me is that Microsoft appears to be taking more steps to position the traditional Windows desktop as just an app in a new interface framework," Forrester's Johnson said. (It should be noted that Johnson shared his insights prior to Microsoft's blog post acknowledging Blue.) He sees upside for IT departments in that shift, because it could help companies ease some of the security and management headaches they deal with in their Windows desktop environments. Those issues arise in part from the Windows kernel, APIs, app layers and other under-the-hood parts of the traditional desktop environment, according to Johnson. He noted that those headaches aren't Microsoft's fault; "rather, it's a natural state of a maturing platform like Windows," he said.

"If Microsoft can create a continuum of new Windows releases and accompanying capabilities ([such as] development environments and productivity apps) that gradually lead everyone off the legacy Windows desktop toward a new model, they may be able to fully compartmentalize the traditional Windows desktop and all of the challenges that go with it over time," Johnson said. "We're a long way from that possibility right now, but I think it's one outcome worth watching for."

What's missing from the early looks at Blue, according to Johnson, are clear indications of how it will help organizations relieve the burdens of managing their PC environments. "The operational costs for organizations are way too high, and the complexity is increasing," Johnson said. "The solution needs to be not better management tools, but getting rid of the need for them to begin with. This is what I'm looking for most in Microsoft's future releases."

But, hey: Back to me. What do I get out of this deal? I'm sort of kidding with that question -- but sort of not. I suspect countless end users will ask some version of the same question because the future of Windows might not best suit their day-to-day jobs. Call it "old school," "legacy," "short-sighted" -- the adjectives don't really matter. What does matter: If you were treading cautiously with Windows 8 for reasons similar to mine -- in short, it doesn't seem to suit your everyday needs as well as previous versions do -- the Windows Blue leak is probably not going to make you pick up the pace. Yes, there's still a desktop mode, but why should desktop users rush to adopt an OS that prioritizes a touch interface that doesn't best serve their business needs or hardware choices?

Windows Blue might be Microsoft's next significant step toward revamping the traditional Windows desktop experience. But there's a lot of a work to be done before touch wins over the PC workforce.

"To do that, they know that people need to find value and convenience in the Windows 8 interface to make it a more natural home for their working lives," Johnson said. "Everything in the leak showcases how they plan to do that in the short term but it's all interface and usability stuff. They're great steps but it's not yet enough to hit the tipping point and create overwhelming demand."

That could be a roadblock for small and midsize businesses (SMBs), in particular.

“Most SMBs will not replace their IT hardware or software unless what they have is no longer fit-for-purpose," said Analysys Mason analyst Patrick Rusby in an email to InformationWeek. "Windows 7 has proven to be a very popular operating system with SMBs and larger enterprises alike, and I suspect it will remain so until it becomes clear what Windows 8 or Windows Blue actually has to offer.”

In the meantime, I'll follow Microsoft's journey from a safe distance.

InformationWeek is conducting a survey on IT spending priorities. Take the InformationWeek 2013 IT Spending Priorities Survey today. Survey ends March 29.

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Palpatine
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Palpatine,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/10/2013 | 7:51:35 AM
re: Tell Me Again: Why Rush Into Windows 8?
I find your lack of faith in the Force disturbing as much as your poor understanding of more than obvious MS business plan.
justindunn
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justindunn,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/7/2013 | 9:06:07 PM
re: Tell Me Again: Why Rush Into Windows 8?
Dude you are a shill, a fool, or both. You should at least present a semi-balanced opinion so it isn't so painfully obvious.
UberGoober
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UberGoober,
User Rank: Strategist
4/5/2013 | 3:41:46 PM
re: Tell Me Again: Why Rush Into Windows 8?
Howdy yourself, Austin. Things are good here, but I'm shaking in my boots thinking about ICD10 next year. It'll keep us employed, though. Hope things are well there.

Disagree strongly about Win8 being a huge step anywhere good, and the recent uptake numbers do indeed appear to make it a turkey. Business implementation is on the same order as Vista was.

Win8 is mostly, as I've said before, Win7 in clown makeup. The new 'Don't call it Metro' UI is as useful as M$ Bob was (and when you think about it, remarkably similar in concept), and if it had been completely optional, I'd be willing to bet that actual use on anything besides tablets would be near zero, and Win8 tablets are a tiny fraction of that market anyway.

The rest of the new stuff in Win8 would have made a nice service pack for Win7. There really isn't that much meat there.

I don't blame M$ for trying to maximize income, but I don't have to participate.
AustinIT
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AustinIT,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/5/2013 | 12:54:42 PM
re: Tell Me Again: Why Rush Into Windows 8?
Hey old friend. How ya doing?

I don't think you can call Win8 a turkey. It's a transition platform toward a different computing paradigm. There's a lot of upside benefit to the ecosystem's hardware and software partners by unifying the code base. Write once... run many.

Folks don't like change. That's obvious. The problem for Microsoft is and always will be how to move technology in a new direction while still supporting their legacy base. This is an enormous challenge and they often step on toes and make strategic mistakes along the way.

I don't see the two UI's as a big problem per se. However, MS did themselves a huge disfavor by not maintaining user choice in how to run their environment. They should have included the functionality that Stardock (and others) has done. It brings back the flexibility in configuring your startup mode and how you move between the new and the old.

It is clear to anyone - who takes the time to seriously look at Win8 - that it is a huge step torward the future of computing. And, you watch. Apple will be blending OS X and iOS before much longer.
UberGoober
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UberGoober,
User Rank: Strategist
4/4/2013 | 2:45:07 PM
re: Tell Me Again: Why Rush Into Windows 8?
Consider your comments about the Tool Ribbon. You quit complaining after working at reduced capacity for weeks. That's a win? The final insult is that the better you were with Office 2003 and prior, the worse the impact of the Tool Ribbon was. I'd guess that the Tool Ribbon cost more American productivity than Superstorm Sandy. You gave in to the Bill and Steve money grab, but hey, it looks good on you!

The Win8 interface is of the same thing. It isn't better, it wastes dozens of hours per user (and more for those of us who actually are really good IT folks and know exactly where things are in Win7 and XP), and buys you nothing (or less) in the long run.

And frankly, I don't care what consumers think; I am in business, which is a completely different world. That being said, even consumers generally don't like Win8. Uptake is weak. Nobody with a lick of sense wants this turkey.
wht
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wht,
User Rank: Strategist
4/4/2013 | 1:24:36 AM
re: Tell Me Again: Why Rush Into Windows 8?
Why bother with that, learn to use Windows 8, it is much easier and a better use of your time. Why run away from something much easier to do than Linux, Chrome (ugh), Thunderbird (relic software), and other software substitutes.
wht
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wht,
User Rank: Strategist
4/4/2013 | 1:22:37 AM
re: Tell Me Again: Why Rush Into Windows 8?
What a fantasy. I doubt your fears will actually be how it unfolds.
wht
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wht,
User Rank: Strategist
4/4/2013 | 1:21:10 AM
re: Tell Me Again: Why Rush Into Windows 8?
Wow, what a rant. Have you considered that you are most of the problem, not Microsoft. After 25 years retirement might suit you better. You do not have to cut power to get to a login screen or to turn a Win 8 device off! That task is a very simple one to do...can you read tutorials or search on Google? I have never had to chkdsk my Win 8 devices, unlike older OS's from the distant past. Registry problems, very, very rarely have I had to mess with the registry, although I am able to do so if necessary. My experience is each new OS release is usually faster than the prior version, with a few exceptions that needed tweaking. Even VISTA was not a mess like I often read in blogs and comments. I still use an XP and 2 Vista boxes with no issues, and a Windows 8 laptop at home, all networked. Win 8 desktops at work, no problems. I get tired of reading about "problems" that my coworkers and I don't have that are blamed on Windows 8, Microsoft, or software...problems we do not encounter. I am an average level IT technician, not a top tier one, and have never needed to be at that level either to work successfully and support up to 100 users. It gets old reading negative nagging posts from supposedly IT knowledgeable people.
wht
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wht,
User Rank: Strategist
4/4/2013 | 1:09:58 AM
re: Tell Me Again: Why Rush Into Windows 8?
Have you actually used Windows 8 for any length of time? You do not need a Start button...I do not miss it at all. I put my Application tiles on the left side of the screen, Metro apps I rarely use on the right. Learn the half dozen most used keyboard shortcuts (or mouse movements), and you are working faster than on Windows 7. I don't use touch very much either on a desktop or laptop. I found it much harder to adapt to the ribbon in Office 2007 or 2010. I finally am comfortable with the ribbon after complaining about it for weeks. I never had an issue with Windows 8. Adapt, learn how to use it, and quit bitching. I might suggest if you can't adapt and learn Windows 8 you don't belong in the IT dept. Consumers might be ahead of you in their openness to change.
glenn817
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glenn817,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/1/2013 | 6:49:59 PM
re: Tell Me Again: Why Rush Into Windows 8?
People keep comparing Windows 8 to Windows Vista, and while this comparison may be apt in some respects, it's not a complete picture. I think the more relevant comparison is the transition to Windows from DOS. Few people working in the DOS environment would argue that using a mouse in Windows improved productivity over DOS. Key strokes in Lotus or Excel, even word, were super-fast - so much so that they still exist in the software today. BUT there would be very few people who would argue that DOS was a better platform. Frankly, touch is the future, and already I see advantages even in MS Office - I imagine this just adds a third dimension to our ability to interact with Office, keyboard, mouse, now touch. Frankly, I expect people who leverage all three will be most productive. Is it easier to grab your mouse, then point and click to just change from one spreadsheet to another? Or can this be done more expeditiously just touching the screen. I expect the latter will prove far more efficient, and as we use the platform more, and yes, as it evolves, it will be the best, most efficient office yet. The reason to adopt now? Well, for starters to be ahead of the curve, have your organization learn the basics before they become complicated by eye scrolling, voice recognition, gesture control...you get the idea.

(I should disclose, I am NOT a Windows 8 adopter, but I've played around with it quite a bit and am a huge fan - I'm just not at that point in my PC replacement cycle.)

Finally, expect MS to make a huge push to expand the touch capabilities of Office with their O14 release. I haven't heard this from them, but it is only logical - can you imagine powerpoint optimized for touch? I can, and it makes me very happy....
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