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10/24/2012
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Windows 8: 4 Hurdles For SMBs

Windows 8 has a lot to like, but the road to adoption--especially early adoption--could be rocky for some small and midsize businesses.

8 Key Differences Between Windows 8 And Windows RT
8 Key Differences Between Windows 8 And Windows RT
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
The anticipation for Windows 8 is more than just hype. This is no minor update of Microsoft's flagship operating system, which runs on the lion's share of personal computers worldwide.

Yet some of the same factors generating excitement about Windows 8--mobility and a sleek new look-and-feel are exhibits A and B--could also create high hurdles for some SMBs on the path to adoption. Those hurdles can be cleared provided you know they're coming. Here are four to consider as you work to avoid getting tripped up.

1. Still on XP. Windows XP is still widely loved--as evidenced by the fact that it's still widely used, even with Microsoft set to pull the plug on support in April 2014. Depending on whose numbers and methodology you use, XP still powers between 20% and 40% of all PCs. That holds true when focusing only on SMB users: 24% of U.S.-based SMBs are still running XP, according to recent Techaisle data. That jumps to 43% of SMBs globally.

SMBs still on XP face a more complex upgrade choice, because they'd be skipping two versions to get to the newest one. Some XP shops are already underway with a migration to Windows 7 or just recently completed one. Then there's the fact that XP users are likely using older hardware. Though it might meet the minimum technical requirements for Windows 8, that gear probably isn't going deliver a productive experience. Windows 8 simply wasn't developed for XP-era hardware.

Can you upgrade directly from Windows XP to Windows 8? Yes. Should you? Maybe, maybe not. Migrating to Windows 7 is generally viewed as the safer move for XP desktop and laptop users. (That wasn't always the case.)

[ If you are upgrading, plan carefully. Read Some Intel-Based Tablets Flunk Windows 8 Upgrade. ]

2. Hardware costs. Even relatively new hardware won't necessarily be optimal. Microsoft acknowledges as much in its Windows 8 Release Preview info. Windows 8 was designed for touch; legacy Windows equipment was not. Software upgrade prices may be palatable for SMBs, but new hardware likely means a significant capital expenditure. The best Windows 8 experience will require new devices--touch-screen PCs, tablets, or some combination of the two. A reasonably optimal deployment might stick with non-touch PCs but still require investing in new tablets--that hardware simply didn't exist until now in Windows environments, so there's no such strategy as extending the hardware refresh cycle.

3. User disruption. Whether you're responsible for one person or 100--or 1,000 people, for that matter--there's no way around the fact that Windows 8 looks and feels much different than previous versions. The UI overhaul can be managed but not ignored. Some InformationWeek readers have pointed out the new UI isn't rocket science--it just takes a little getting used to. They're probably right; they're also probably more technical than the typical user. (If you've been using Windows 8 since day one, that's you.) For everyone else, there's going to be a learning curve--something the IT pros who help them can't scoff at. Reader "Mark532010" notes that while a teenager might not miss a beat with Windows 8, "for the existing non-expert people who use Windows to get their work done it will be a nightmare. ... It will be quite difficult for me as a support person."

4. BYOD office. Windows 8 could become a single platform to bridge the gap between home and office. That would appeal to IT departments that don't want to deal with employee-owned iPads and other devices on the corporate network.

Therein lies a Catch-22: Love or hate BYOD, deploying Windows 8 is no easy fix. If you're in the "love" category, that means you probably have a cornucopia of devices and OSes on your network already; Windows 8 is just another one. If you're on the "hate" side of the BYOD spectrum, refer back to point number two. It's tough to enforce a no-BYOD policy without offering employees a company-issued alternative. It could get very expensive for SMBs to outfit their personnel for Windows 8, particularly if an employee needs multiple devices--PC, tablet, and phone. Theoretical BYOD salvation comes with a real cost.

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stoneyh
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stoneyh,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/24/2012 | 5:49:36 PM
re: Windows 8: 4 Hurdles For SMBs
Windows 8 was not designed for touch,... Windows RT and Metro UI were designed for touch. I have been using Windows 8 for nearly 10 weeks. Windows 8 is a lot of Windows with a little bit of Metro not the other way around. Windows 8 runs very well on my two year old laptop. Faster as a matter of fact. All of my Office 2010 software runs on it just like in Win7. OLD hardware is a problem (for Win 7 or 8) hardware under two years of age is likely fine. Point 3 is your killer and not just because of the Modern UI - its because thinking admins that like their jobs don't update a working environment every time a new OS comes out.
stoneyh
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stoneyh,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/24/2012 | 5:33:47 PM
re: Windows 8: 4 Hurdles For SMBs
Well from a desktop/laptop standpoint (we are talking about Windows 8 after all) Apple's philosophy is "winning" to the tune of a 12% market share versus Microsoft's 80% or so. Granted that is up from only 5% in just one year - that is obviously huge.. But Windows 7 and not Windows 8 or OS X will probably maintain the lion's share of business desktops. Even if people like OS X better than Windows the price point just does not work versus a PC (or an existing solution that already works) . Bosses don't like to buy pricey esoteric devices for word processing and spreadsheets.
UberGoober
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UberGoober,
User Rank: Strategist
10/24/2012 | 5:22:08 PM
re: Windows 8: 4 Hurdles For SMBs
Point 2 minimizes the absolute lack on touchscreen monitors in small (or large) business. A quick scan of the market gives a starting point of about $250 for touchscreen monitors, more than double the cost of conventional monitors.

Point 4 assumes that someone will actually buy WinPhone8 phones and/or that Win8 will penetrate the tablet market significantly. Neither of those assumptions is in evidence, and particularly the first seems wildly unlikely.

The whole thing seems somehow Vista-like to me...
Don108
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Don108,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/24/2012 | 5:05:16 PM
re: Windows 8: 4 Hurdles For SMBs
Your article ignores the real issue: the philosophy behind mobile vs. laptop/desktop. Apple's philosophy is an appropriate OS for each device with transparent transfer of data between them. Microsoft's philosophy is one OS on all devices so everything is the same everywhere. Right now, the Apple philosophy is winning and Microsoft is really late to the game. Microsoft's money, however, has traditionally been spent on playing catch-up and conquer. It is the market that will decide which philosophy is adopted.
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