I had to chuckle this afternoon when I read Ed Bott’s latest Operating Systems piece. It’s entitled “How to skip Windows 8 and continue using Windows 7.” In it he makes the very essential observation that MS doesn’t retire its old OSes as soon as new ones come out. He also tells an amusing story about his experiences in a Kentucky coffee shop to make this point: “If you don’t want to upgrade, just don’t upgrade.” Then he points out that the end-of-support-date for Windows 7 SP1 is January 14, 2020 (that’s 7 years and 5 months from now). He also observes that retailers will be able to sell a boxed version of Windows 7 until October 25, 2013 (or longer) and that OEMs can sell systems with Windows 7 pre-installed until a year after that (October 25, 2014, and also perhaps longer). And finally, he points out that Windows licenses usually confer downgrade rights, so that you are within your rights to replace Windows 8 Pro with a copy of Windows 7 Professional, should you so choose. Bottom line: Windows 7 isn’t going to disappear when Windows 8 ships, and plenty of buyers will happily continue to buy and use systems with the older OS installed.
I’m still waiting to understand more good reasons to upgrade to Windows 8, and continue to believe that “later, rather than sooner” will be the timing for many business users who don’t have compelling needs to put tablets or other touch devices into their employees’ hands. By the same token, I’ll be very curious to see if a new generation of touch-enabled mobile devices springs up to replace the durable Psion and other touch- and pen-based devices that some meter-readers, the UPS guy, and countless other mobile workers carry with them on their daily rounds of data acquisition, service or package delivery, and so forth and so on. Maybe the embedded systems buyers will actually lead the charge to the new OS, simply because it speaks to value propositions that they already know and love?
On the other hand, I’ve found many things about Windows 8 to be worth an upgrade — at least as far as I’m concerned:
1. I’ve been using touch long enough now that it’s starting to feel natural and unforced. In fact, I find myself reaching out to touch screens now that lack touch capability, just because I’m used to interacting with my systems in that way.
2. I’ve also learned to appreciate Windows 8’s improved Task Manager and its nice touches to the Windows Explorer interface (especially more and better data about ongoing file copies, the Quick Access Toolbar, better right-click menus, and context-sensitive tool tabs).
3. The ability to synch my notebook and desktop using the login to the same Windows Live ID is great — as long as you set files up so that they’re easy to share across platforms. I expect this will become a widely-used feature for users who bounce between or among multiple Windows platforms. So far, I don’t see it reaching far enough to create a clamor for Windows 8 smartphones, but I could always be wrong (or somebody will write a killer app that brings Android and iOS devices under this umbrella).
4. A sleeker, speedier Windows: Faster boot-up and shutdown, faster app loading and execution, manageable memory footprint, incredibly SSD-friendly. There’s probably more to say here, but I haven’t found or learned it yet. I can’t wait until Mark Russinovich and his colleagues get around to another update to their Windows Internals book, so I can improve my understanding of the inner workings of this new OS (but alas, it probably won’t be out for at least another 18 months, if history is any guide).
I think for a lot of consumer- and enthusiast-grade users, these factors and more will propel a certain level of Windows 8 adoption when it hits the streets in October 2012. Whether that’s enough to justify Microsoft’s hopes and analysts expectations’ that Windows 8 sales will help Microsoft’s earnings trend upward is still an uncertain guess, as far as I’m concerned. All I can say on this subject is “We’ll see…”