The introduction of a new Microsoft operating system always serves as something of a milestone for IT leaders, providing them a chance to stop, evaluate one of their organizations' key building blocks and contemplate changes. As Windows 8 migrations begin, one such moment has arrived.
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Now that enterprises have had their first good look at Microsoft's new OS, the serious discussions about how -- or if -- to implement it have begun. Much of the talk has been about the new touch features of Windows 8, but enterprise decision makers should be just as curious about a slew of management and usability features that Microsoft has put significant effort into developing.
Of course, updating to Windows 8 is no small task. In addition to the complexity of such a move, the OS itself has been fairly divisive. Some people love it, others hate it, and there are serious questions about how widely it will be adopted on non-tablet hardware.
IT shops that think a Windows 8 upgrade might be worthwhile should look at four key areas: where Windows 8 fits into the enterprise, how to handle legacy applications in the new OS, tools to use for the migration and details about licensing. This first tip in the series looks at where and whether Windows 8 fits.
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Windows 8 stands apart from its predecessors -- Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP -- in that the rise of touch-centric computing devices, such as slate PCs and tablets, influenced a big portion of its design and engineering philosophy. Previous editions of Windows had some touch-oriented functions, but Windows 8 revisits all of them. It also provides an entirely new desktop environment for running apps -- formerly known as Metro -- specifically designed to make the most of a touch-based user interface.
One easy conclusion to draw from this is that Windows 8 isn't for "regular PCs." There's a kernel of truth to that. Many of the new user interface behaviors are optimized for a touch environment, and while touch devices don't require Windows 8, they tend to benefit most from it.
Still, the general rule of thumb is: If it runs Windows 7, it'll run Windows 8.
A great deal of Windows as we have come to know it still exists in Windows 8. It's just presented differently -- like the Metro version of the Start menu, which no longer lives in its familiar home in the screen's lower-left corner.
Another important thing to bear in mind about whether to pursue a Windows 8 migration is the number of changes in the OS that have nothing to do with its user interface. These include memory management refinements, hypervisor and virtual machine functionality, and the capability to boot Windows from a thumb drive with Windows To Go. It's unlikely many of these features will be back-ported into Windows 7, because of technical feasibility and Microsoft's own product-development strategies.
To that end, Windows 8 may provide the most benefit when deployed first on devices where Windows 8's touch functionality will be readily available and useful. It's less of a priority to deploy it on conventional desktop or notebook systems, unless there are other, under-the-hood features of Windows 8 that make it vital to do so -- and if you're building a sizeable chunk of your future infrastructure on top of that functionality.