Essential Guide

Post-XPalypse: Surviving a world changed by Windows 8.1 features

A comprehensive collection of articles, videos and more, hand-picked by our editors

Examining alternatives to Windows 8

As enterprise IT gets ready for Windows 8, some are opting out and looking at alternative operating systems. Let's explore some Windows alternatives.

Now that Microsoft has recently released Windows 8 to manufacturing and the operating system's general availability is just around the corner, many administrators are finally coming around to the fact that Windows has changed. Some IT shops are considering or have already adopted Microsoft Windows alternatives, especially as mobile devices join desktops for enterprise computing.

Some critics have said that the Windows 8 desktop is a second-class citizen running as an app with subpar touch support. Other changes facing enterprise IT pros include the new Metro-style environment, which is designed more for touch tablets than regular desktop PCs.

Let's take a look at some of the Windows alternatives that you might consider if the new release is simply too much change all at once for your organization.

Mac OS X

Apple continues to make inroads with its desktop OS, helped by the massive popularity of its consumer devices. The Mac experience is actually quite rich now; the Office for Mac 2011 product from Microsoft is a full-featured office suite that has nearly equivalent features to its Windows counterpart.

More about Windows 8 and operating system alternatives

Will Windows 8 downgrade rights cure IT's paranoia?

Windows 8 FAQ: Windows 8 features, news and more

Do enterprises even need Microsoft Office anymore?

When alternative OSes are part of the desktop picture

Numerous productivity tools are available for the Mac, and most cloud services such as Office 365 are also compatible with Mac clients. In addition, network infrastructure from Juniper Networks and Cisco Systems supports connections like virtual private networks (VPNs) from Mac clients as well.

The main problem with using Macs for business is the lack of onboard management tools, but third-party products from Thursby Software and other manufacturers can make enterprise Mac desktop management less painful. Users love the hardware, which is expensive, and they enjoy syncing their own Apple devices with the Mac platform.

If you're considering an alternative operating system that's a full-featured fat-client platform, look no further than the Mac -- nothing else out there, including desktop Linux, comes close.

A VDI implementation used with tablets and ultrabooks

Lots of people own an iPad and a lot of folks are interested in the ultralight PC notebooks (which Intel calls "ultrabooks") that are making their way onto the market. These devices represent the ultimate in portability and are a surprisingly good value for the money.

Tablets, like the iPad and Android-based devices, can use virtual desktop technology to connect to a back-end pool of virtual machines and use a corporate desktop image in a Remote Desktop Protocol-based session.

Ultrabook users have less of a need for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) because they typically run a full fat operating system, but you can still use it for these clients. Users get portability, and they can run whatever OS they prefer while connecting back to a managed instance of a desktop that IT controls.

Establishing a BYOD plan

This takes the consumerization of IT to its current extreme and may create its own headaches, but it's certainly a possibility. Your users are already clamoring to bring their iPhones and Android phones to work. Why not simply give them a device subsidy and let them choose what to use? Some workers prefer portability. Other users prefer three monitors. Still others would like a specific keyboard configuration on a laptop.

The list of personalization opportunities goes on. VDI and bring your own device (BYOD) policies can yield many benefits. For example, users will be happy with -- or at least responsible for -- their own hardware choices, and enterprise IT can control managed instances.

You still need some type of network security package like network access protection or quarantining to ensure that hosts connected to the corporate network are patched and secure. You'd of course also need a fleet of loaners and repair machines, but BYOD could even allow users to choose from a list of devices to bring, running whatever operating system they'd like. What if you allowed home desktops and laptops running Mac OS X to connect through a VPN or even remotely into a virtual desktop? These are all things to consider as a Windows alternative.

Ignoring Windows 8 and continuing with Windows 7 deployments

Some might call this the ostrich approach, with images of heads in sand, but ask yourself if the value of Windows 8 can be realized by your users over and above what already exists with Windows 7.

Many users have gotten used to Windows 7, and it doesn't require a lot of retraining. The OS was designed for use almost exclusively on the hardware you already have, whereas Windows 8 is pretty much a touch-first experience.

Windows 7 is compatible with just about everything, since it has been on the market for three years now, and it already has a service pack under its belt. It's fast and responsive. Microsoft's Windows 8 is a lot of change. Why bother? You could keep rolling out Windows 7. It has a supportability window for commercial customers until Jan. 14, 2020, so it still has a lot of life left in it.

This was last published in September 2012

PRO+

Content

Find more PRO+ content and other member only offers, here.

Essential Guide

Post-XPalypse: Surviving a world changed by Windows 8.1 features

Join the conversation

86 comments

Send me notifications when other members comment.

By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy

Please create a username to comment.

Which of these Windows 8 alternatives are you considering?
Cancel
If Win7 goes away we will go Linux – Never Mac- BYOD very difficult to secure your data
Cancel
Windows 7 combined with virtualization
Cancel
I have used a couple variants of Linux, namely Fedora Core, Ubuntu and CentOS. The only issue I have is that Windows still is king when it comes to support for applications, drivers and patches.
Cancel
Fedora and Mandriva are Top class OS alternatives
Cancel
Linux mint is both robust and performant. There are too few viruses and security issues are fixed almost instantly when discovered.
Cancel
Mac has better support and reliability and is very easy to use and also make custom implementations.
Cancel
We have found the Linux solution the most cost effective and user friendly of all we have tried. Apple was not as easy to follow for our users as the gnome.
Cancel
Have used Linux in the past
Cancel
Windows 8 was a idea best left under the covers. If not MAC OS then a flavor of Linux.
Cancel
Ubuntu with Gnome 3 desktop is alternative for Windows 8
Cancel
The industry needs to stop being spoon fed by Microsoft, too bloated , too complicated and obscured, and too easily targeted by malware. monopolies of any kind are bad for business.
Cancel
We are looking at Google and their solution.
Cancel
XP -> 7 currently running. Why adopting smthg different.
Cancel
Metro interface doesn't allow two apps on the screen at once. How often does a professional need to consult reference materials and a working docuement at the same time - Isn't this why I need a desktop and not a reduced toy interface?
Cancel
Just what the world needs... another solution to a problem that doesn't exist.
Cancel
I have a Windows phone with a Windows 7 type enviroment and hate it, I have always used Windows phones. But not at the next upgrade, I will not use Windows 8 either, what the hell have Microsoft done!
Cancel
New Metro interface is very uncomfortable and counterproductive. It's good for small touch screens, and bad for anything else.
Win8 has buggy and unreliable Task Manager and lack of desktop gadgets.
Cancel
I see no reason to "upgrade" from Win 7, or even Vista SP2. I really think 8 is another ME.
Cancel
the cloud will shape our future
Cancel
Once again, Microsoft fails (like Vista) to see the end-user & corporate needs and tries to push on the market something nobody wants. Do I need a "Fisher-Price" tablet screen on my notebook or desktop? Heck no! I will play with Win8 (Vista 2012) only because I am in IT. ...and iOS and Andriod have the tablet market sown up, why this nonsense?
Cancel
I don't see the value in windows 8 to justify the pain in u"upgrading".
Cancel
Already using some Linux and Mac OSX, but some applications have been designed for Windows and a change is untenible at this time. Windows 7 is fine. MS, stop screwing with the desktop UI.
Cancel
windows 8 sucks
Cancel
Why put out $$ on a new OS when Win7 works just fine?
Cancel
Linux + VMware
Cancel
M$ has screwed the pooch on this one. Windows 7 rollout may be the last for most businesses.
Cancel
Probably will wait until the successor to Windows 8.
Cancel
Todavía le queda mucha vida al Win7
Cancel
Who needs Win8?
Cancel
I like linux best for development, anyway.
Cancel
Metro UI is disgusting, we need extensive use of keyboard/mouse.
Colorful icons to black and white?
Come on!!!
Cancel
BYOD, or Choose your own, might be the future. Employees can pick a device which fits their own style and needs. Connecting to a VDI infrastructure provide a secure and robust enterprise workspace. Public Cloud is still a no go for my organisation (a Bank).
Cancel
Staying with Win7 until Enterprise-class 'touch' devices (ultrabooks, Tables, "trasnformable") will be released, at that time Win8 can be an option.
Cancel
I program with VB6 and since its support has been discontinued in Win-8 I'm sticking with something I can use. No way I'm switching! Not going to put all my work on the internet either, so no "cloud" crud for me.
Cancel
When someone hacks windows 8 activation I will use it.
Cancel
As a shop firmly committed to Windows Technologies, there is no real need to switch from Windows, however W8 is a different beast.

If you must go W8 consider a W7 menu option
Cancel
My PC needs are simple: games, email, some writing. If windows 7 support was dropped today, I would switch to Linux.
Cancel
windows is not worth dropping for because the start menu has changed. the amount of emphasis that is placed on this is as though everyone does their entire work in the start menu. Is this place turning into techrepublic with it's dumb scaremongering nonsense?
Cancel
Microsoft can shove win8 where the sun doesn't shine UNLESS they give a choice of desktop styles, ie, AERO with a traditional Start Menu
Cancel
I use Linux for the majority of my work and I use Windows for playing games so I will stick with this solution as long as I can.
Cancel
Windows 8, interesting. LOL
Cancel
Microsoft has deaf ears, they are being like the stubborn republicans in congress who arent out to do whats right for the customer base. I'm actively exploring going to the Apple platform based on the above. It could be a simple solution to all of the BS - just give us the choice to use the AERO Desktop with Start Menu.
Cancel
So you're not a Microsoft, but an Apple shop.
Linux is far more secure, functionnal and manageable corporate-wide than MAC/OS X is. The latter is althought a very good Editing/publishing/mulitmedia platform ... for rich people/companies.
Cancel
One issue that is holding back Apple deployment in business is the lack of server hardware. Since the short sited demise of anything sesnsible to use for Macservers we have decided to use Linux and Windows servers to get a proper infrastructure that is reliable and resilient.
Cancel
I actually switched to Linux when Windows 7 came out. I am tired of the constant upgrade hassles.
Cancel
Win7 is supported in our systems, Linux could be variant, but it will need big testing
Cancel
Anything is better than windows 8. The Training costs of moving to Windows are just not worth it. Stay with 7.
Cancel
I love Ubuntu 12.10 using KDE desktop.
Easy to learn an operate.
Cancel
Windows 8 is fine if what you want is social media connectivity but not real office work. Either stay with W 7 until MS stops forcing start screen, or migrating to MAC or Linux. Both MAC and Linux seem to be OK so far in testing and production environments.
Cancel
Windows 8 is great, fast and stable.
Get over the "Start" button, you don't really need it
Cancel
win8 is so weird, and has dropped off dvd recording too, so we may as well move to Linux, or stay with win7. Best option of all would be to stay with winXP, if that were to get supported..
Cancel
In the office envirnment we have we are just getting used to Office 2010 with a Destop system. The cost and training reqired to adapt to Windows 8 is not worth the effort and expense.
Cancel
Staying with Windows 7 for now. Windows 8 Enterprise can be leveraged so that the Metro interface is actually an advantage for corporate users by developing in-house Windows 8 apps
Cancel
OS8 would be more appoporiate for tablet or phone environment as for enterprise less likely espeically if they just upgraded to 7.
Linux is another alternative that has been used by corp non profits and education.
Cancel
Learning curve is my issue...
Cancel
will also be looking at the other alternatives
Cancel
choosing WIN7 to give us time to move to MAC. Done with Microsoft & their censoring of the tech base & arrogantly ndenying us the ability to have the traditional AERO desktop & start menu. One size will NEVER fit all. The best thing to do is to move to the MAC platform. I am DONE with Microsoft & I look forward to their death.
Cancel
windows 8 seems to be an incomplete landscape. No clear direction, and no direction.
Cancel
I like Win8 on ultrabooks (I have one)...I don't see any reason to move to win8 for all at the office - no productivity gain
Cancel
As well as considering Linux (which I would certainly push), companies should consider giving support to the Wine and ReactOS projects for applications that don't have Linux alternatives. Financial support would mean the projects would advance much quicker, and would become crucial parts of their future IT solutions
Cancel
The comments that say "just stick with Windows7" don't take into account people who stayed with Windows XP because it did what they needed. Now that XP is fast approaching end-of-life, Win8 will prove to be a non-option for a lot of Pentium-M and various Pentium4 systems. Win8 will simply _not_run_ on a large number of systems still in use, and the unavailability of Win7 will force those users to Linux. Remember, folks; despite what the government hacks tell you, we are still solidly in the midst of an economic depression, and people just do not have the money for the new hardware needed to run Win8
Cancel
Windows 8, together with Cloud Computing, is just a glimpse of what is around the corner and few seem to realise what is really happening. Ms, having belched forth trash like Vista and abandoning long time clients who were perfectly happy with XP, failed to listen carefully to their clients or OS experts and tried to recover by stuffing Windows 7 down the faces of their clients, (volente o nolente), thanks to the notable hold they have on HW suppliers.
Everyone tried to adapt and waste time learning this but before one can finish, out comes their new bravado, the great pretender, the promise for a new and better future, Win 8.
One could do a little research into the Gates-Balmer gang and consider other factors and implications of this strategy, concern oneself about the inevitable impact rather than worry if kiddy will be able to play ping pong on the nice new tablet.
After all, as one now knows, life is not worth living without such amenities.
Cancel
WINDOWS 8 came out too soon -- I still do not have mastery of WINDOWS 7, which takes a few years. I just don't need a new OS.
Cancel
business users that have software that does not run on windows 8 have to stick with 7 for as long as needed till their software works again after getting screwed on xp to vista to 7 (3 times in 4 years) almost anything is better then MS at this point.
Cancel
Some of the silliest alternative suggestions I've seen. Does it makes sense to abandon Windows and go to a completely different OS such as Mac OSX or Linux simply because of Windows 8?
Cancel
Testing Windows 8 in the enterprise and currently only very minor issues. The desktop works just as good if not better than Windows 7 with better security and performance. User feed back has been positive.
Cancel
Yep, staying with 7. No reason at all to go to 8 for us.
Cancel
Been Using Linux for a few years now and get frustrated by constantly have to resolve niggling issues on windows PCs.
Windows 7 can be made to look like XP and keep users working.
I often think that the amount of time users will waste trying to justify their need for cutting edge hardware/software just to create a few letters and simple spread sheets is a cost to business that seems to slip under the radar.
Cancel
Windows 8 is still work in progress. Non Windows may not support enterprise applications. Thus the best option we are left with is to stay with Windows 7. BYOD is not a substitute for desktops and laptops which need to run on a Operating System on which enterprise applications are supported. It can work in addition to provide people some choice of using their personal devices such as Apple and android mobiles.
Cancel
Learning curve costs preclude switching to alternatives that demand learning all over again. Jan 2020 is a long way away!
Cancel
I prefer Windows 7. Making something new because it should be new, does not mean better.
Cancel
Windows OS's have become less powerful since WinXP and everything since XP has been a downgrade - I have had enough of the Windows decline
Cancel
Windows 8 is successor to mca x
Cancel
Open Source evolve faster than proprietary OS's although their flavors are use at your own risk there is still an ample avenue of support and discussion which is all worth it in the long run, both for education and long term security knowing and having personalized in most cases the management of your system
Cancel
Windows 8 pilot has been successful so far and we are going to roll this out to all our existing Win XP users in the next 30 days.
Cancel
There are just too many alternatives to Microsoft O/S's to even consider staying with the Windows genre. Too many company's get into the "comfort zone" and do not have enough skilled employees to transition them to the better alternatives.
Cancel
XP - Best OS MS developed. Perfect for school environment, as a tech, I could do what I needed to safeguard students and teachers. Now W7 2yrs. latter moving on! Why is it so difficult to improve what you had (have) causing far less ripples- learning, hardware and software curves in schools where funds are so tight anyway? You effect GREAT NUMBERS w/small changes. Change is good, but when you have 1000’s…still need to function!
Cancel
I have tried windows 8 and it will be too much of change to introduce to any enterprise. The benefits over Windows 7 do NOT warrant the change.
Cancel
Windows 8 UI is poor, so move to Apple.
Seriously? Who wrote this?
Cancel
Better better than new.
Cancel
it is not free OS in windows 8
Cancel
nix win8
Cancel
Windows 8 - Not a good choice in the corporate environment.
Cancel
Windows-8 is a very ugly interface that offers absolutely nothing in terms of business productivity. One question: Why would you?
Cancel
For research, teaching and desktop office use a touch screen simply does not begin to meet our needs.
Cancel

-ADS BY GOOGLE

SearchVirtualDesktop

SearchWindowsServer

SearchExchange

Close