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Microsoft is making big promises about Windows 8. Anything that runs on Windows 7 will also run on the new operating system, so the transition should be easy, Microsoft says. And some slick new features such as touch-centric applications may make it worth the cost and effort of upgrading.
The OS will run across a wide range of hardware, including smartphones and tablets based on ARM processors, as well as Intel-based and AMD-based machines. Win 8 is equally at home with a mouse and keyboard as it is with touch, said Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live division, at the Microsoft Build conference in September. We'll see how that works in practice, but it's clear that the company is going after smartphone and tablet mindshare by dragging the ubiquitous enterprise PC experience into the mobility era.
About half of business technology pros at companies with 500 or more employees that we surveyed expect to migrate to Windows 8. When we drill down, though, 70% of respondents say that half or fewer of their tablets and smartphones will ultimately run on Windows 8, and a full 42% say that fewer than a quarter of those devices will be on Win 8.
Still, new laptops will be shipping with the operating system soon enough, and enterprise IT teams and developers should get familiar with the significant changes that come with the operating system's new Metro-style, touch-centric interface. With this redefined interface (see a screen shot), Microsoft aims to bring the usability and interactivity of smartphone apps to desktops and laptops. The Windows 8 beta is expected in late February, and IT must be prepared (or not) to plot the upgrade strategy and for employees who bring their own Win 8 devices into the company.
User Interface Redefined
The default view on a Windows 8 machine is a series of tiles that show the real-time status of your applications. When a Metro-based app is launched, it fills the screen and is "chromeless"--in Microsoft parlance that means no buttons, scroll bars, file menu, toolbars, or other standard user interface elements. Instead, you interact by touch and through the app itself.