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Is Windows 8 Too Risky For IT?

Microsoft's new OS may be just too different for conservative IT departments, Gartner says. But here's why I'm not counting Windows 8 out--even in the near term.

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)
Microsoft next month will launch Windows 8, the most radically redesigned version of its franchise OS since Windows 95, which brought stalwart features like the Task Bar and Start button to the desktop. Going full circle, Windows 8 dispenses with Start, while introducing many other changes. There's lots to like about it, but is it all too much for inherently conservative IT departments?

Gartner, in a research note this week, postulated that it just might be. "Making radical changes to Windows poses a risk for Microsoft as organizations like to reduce technology risk by deploying mature, stable, well-supported products," the firm said.

Proof? Gartner points to Windows Vista, which added a slew of new features, such as Aero Glass (gone from Windows 8), and intrusive security warnings (also gone), that were mercilessly pilloried in Apple ads.

The result: Vista at its peak level of deployment could only be found on 8% enterprise PCs, according to Gartner.

Does a similar fate await Windows 8? Maybe. The additional burden on help desks that the new Metro interface would inevitably create might alone be enough for CIOs to order their desktop managers to shun Windows 8. Presented with blocky Live Tiles rather than the familiar Start button and Windows Explorer, employees doubtless will be reaching for the help line the first time they boot Windows 8.

[ There are many questions when it comes to deciding on a new desktop OS, including: Why Are We Still Buying Desktop OSes, Anyway? ]

Forcing users to go Metro "is probably the most controversial decision Microsoft has made in Windows 8," said Gartner.

Windows 8 also threatens to spark more BYOD chaos. It adds not one, but two new platforms that IT departments will have to manage--and adds them to a growing list that also includes iPads, Blackberrys, Androids, and even e-Readers like Kindle HD.

Why two? Most users will opt for tablets running Windows 8 Professional so they can keep their existing apps and services. But some will choose Windows 8 RT tablets. Built for mobility, they promise longer battery life and light form factors, but they won't run existing Windows apps.

Microsoft has also warned that Windows RT devices won't be compatible with its full suite of back-end management and security tools.

So is Windows 8 DOA in the enterprise? Not so fast. IT organizations typically don't start to seriously look at a new Microsoft OS until it's been in the field for at least a couple of years. About 64% of respondents to a recent InformationWeek survey said that their future OS strategy involves "hanging on to Windows 7 as long as possible." A full 20% said they will stick with Windows XP, which Microsoft intends to discontinue support for in 2014, until the bitter end.

Having said that, I'm not counting out Windows 8--even in the near term. To be sure, it's a radical departure from previous Windows, and that may be off putting for some CIOs. But the changes also include a slew of valuable new tools not to be found in XP, Vista, or even Windows 7.

There's Secure Boot, a process designed to prevent malware from infecting computers during startup, even before Windows and all of its built-in safeguards are launched. It works by confirming that all components have the appropriate security certificates before they are allowed to launch. Secure Boot requires UEFI BIOS to run, which is only found on the newest PCs.

For companies that hire lots of consultants, contractors, and other temps, and need to give such personnel access to a corporate desktop image and apps without granting full server permissions, there's Windows To Go. It lets users boot a preconfigured, IT-certified Windows 8 image onto any laptop from a USB. It also lets them boot up a Windows 8 image on a Windows 7 PC.

File management is vastly improved: A new interface box gives users a combined view of all concurrently running copy jobs. It shows which jobs are running, lists the file source and destination for each, and shows what percentage is complete. Another new feature lets users manage each job separately. Any job underway can be paused, resumed, or canceled independently of the others. That could be a boon to publishers, law firms, and other businesses that deal with large volumes of documents. And there's lots more.

Will it all be worth the inevitable aggravation that comes with adopting a brand new architecture? Should enterprises go from XP to Windows 7, or directly to Windows 8. There's much to consider. "Windows 8 is not your normal low or even high-impact major release of the OS," said Gartner analyst Steve Kleynhans. "It's the start of a new era for Microsoft." In other words, the decision to go Windows 8 will be a tough call--but isn't that why CIOs get paid the big bucks?

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User Rank: Ninja
9/28/2012 | 11:55:59 AM
re: Is Windows 8 Too Risky For IT?
The problem with W8 is not so much the dysfunctional no longer called Metro UI, which really is just a dumbed down version of the start menu, but that it does not offer anything noteworthy besides the UI change. There is zero benefit in upgrading and doing so will produce excessive expenses. Besides that, almost none of the business office furniture is designed to accommodate touch enabled monitors. So not only will it cost a lot in license fees, but also requires new hardware (touch enabled) monitors, a lot of training, and either extensive rework or total replacement of most office furniture. Yes, I know, W8 can still be used with mouse and keyboard, but then it offers even less incentive for an upgrade. Further, most office work still requires a lot of data entry and typing on a soft keyboard on a touch screen is plain horrible.
Microsoft will still less a lot of W8 licenses, but that does not mean widespread W8 usage. It is the way IT departments have to take to get W7 licenses.
User Rank: Apprentice
9/27/2012 | 9:28:26 PM
re: Is Windows 8 Too Risky For IT?
I think he was talking to IT people and not the sheeple that buy macs.

Windows 7 is very stable but because there have been so much demand for tablets and like devices, many people are using a combination. The Apple MDM tool is somewhat ok but more of a joke for business. The best we can do is lock that down internally and have them citrix in through a gateway . So many are leaving Blackberry behind as well and using andoid and IOS devices.
I welcome Windows 8 as it kinda elminates the need for both a laptop and tablet. ( the joker above has to buy both). And with the convergence of windows PHONE 8, we can manage that as well with System Manager 2012. We can manage the devices and people can still have access to their private services and data. No more trying to manage laptops, tablets, weird phones - all with different OSes.

And we can still push most windows 7 applications to Windows 8, they simply launch in the desktop mode. Im playing with the new AppV as well for Windows 8 app deployment. Future looks good and manageable now.
User Rank: Strategist
9/27/2012 | 8:37:22 PM
re: Is Windows 8 Too Risky For IT?
What a BS comment, which I don't believe. You could have used Windows 7 for years to come and been a happy camper. Nobody, nothing, nada, is forcing you to use Windows 8. If you are happy with your crapple device, whatever, but that was your move (a dumb one), that really has nothing to do with Windows 8.
User Rank: Apprentice
9/27/2012 | 6:55:11 PM
re: Is Windows 8 Too Risky For IT?
Windows 8 drove me to buy my first Mac notebook just two short days ago. A 13" one was the most i could afford if i wanted a 500gb hdd, but i hardly notice the smaller screen. I don't think i'll ever look back at windows.
User Rank: Ninja
9/27/2012 | 6:33:34 PM
re: Is Windows 8 Too Risky For IT?
Sorry, I stopped reading after "Gartner". I don't know why they have such credibility, a lot of their "reports" are garbage and an insult to true researchers everywhere.
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