As Microsoft launches its highly-anticipated new OS this week, experts say IT pros should focus on Windows 7 upgrades--and watch for Windows 8 tablets to walk through the enterprise front door.
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PC vendors also are not expecting to see IT departments stocking up on Windows 8 desktops and laptops anytime soon. "Are the benefits there for you to want to do that?" said Paul Moore, VP for product management at Fujitsu Americas. "No, I don't think they are, especially prior to SP1" (Service Pack 1).
Even Microsoft is advising its corporate customers to go slow on Windows 8, which is presently available to commercial subscribers and developers. "Customers that are in the process of Windows 7 deployments should continue deploying Windows 7 and migrate off of Windows XP as soon as possible," said Microsoft marketing director Stella Chernyak, in a blog post last week.
So is Windows 8 a total non-starter for enterprises? Not so fast. While it's unlikely to show up on the majority of corporate desktops for years, if ever, many of the new Windows 8 tablets that will hit the market on Friday will undoubtedly start walking in the front door soon after. They'll be carried by users who want the benefits of a tablet in a Windows environment that is compatible with their employers' IT backbone.
"People want iPads, but iPads are hard to manage. So Windows 8 in a similar form factor is much more attractive to us," said University of Dayton's Mlazovsky. He noted that some of the specialized software used by university faculty, such as certain CAD/CAM apps, won't run on Apple's iOS. "We're hoping that Windows 8 gives us the best of both worlds," he said.
Gartner's Silver said enterprises and other organizations should be able to successfully mix Windows 7 PCs and Win8 tablets. "Having Windows 7 desktops and Windows 8 tablets won't be that bad to support, there's a lot of commonality between Windows 7 and Windows 8," he said.
Enterprises just need to be careful which version of Windows 8 they purchase or encourage users to acquire.
Intel and AMD-based tablets running Windows 8 Pro should be compatible with most Microsoft security and administration tools and legacy apps. Tablets running Windows RT, a variant of Windows 8 for ARM-based devices, will not be. Windows RT tablets, even Microsoft Surface RT, will not be capable of running in a Windows Server Active Directory domain. Also, Windows RT devices will not run apps written for Windows 7 or older versions of Windows.
That's why some vendors that focus on the enterprise market have no plans to introduce Windows RT devices. Fujitsu last week rolled out a new line of Windows 8 PCs and tablets, including the 10.1-inch Stylistic Q572 tablet. It runs Windows 8 Pro on AMD's Z-60 "Hondo" architecture. Moore said the company will skip Windows RT. "We focus on the enterprise, and that's a different subset. Windows RT is going to compete more on the consumer level."
For enterprises that do want to run Windows 8 on the desktop, and not just tablets, the advice is to go slow. "We recommend customers identify employees and user groups that can benefit most from Windows 8's capabilities and deploy Windows 8 for those people, alongside Windows 7," said Microsoft's Chernyak. It's sound advice, which most enterprises appear ready to follow.