Now that Windows 8 has been on sale for a few months, and with Microsoft blanketing the airwaves with advertising for the new operating system, the timing is right for this post. This isn’t a review of Windows 8 Pro, and I won’t be breaking down its new features, but after a few months of using it on my primary computer, I’ve come away with the conclusion that it really doesn’t fit for most small businesses. When Windows 7 Professional emerged, we wholeheartedly supported businesses moving to it from Windows XP Professional (and Vista), but things aren’t so cut and dry this time around; here are 4 reasons why small businesses shouldn’t make the switch to Windows 8 Pro.
Note: This post is focused on Windows 8 Pro and ignores Windows RT, which runs exclusively on a touch-enabled devices.
- Windows 8 Pro is hard to use
The most important thing to know about Windows 8, from a user’s perspective, is that it introduces a new navigation paradigm centered on a “Start screen” interface that replaces the Start menu of previous versions. If you’ve used an Xbox 360 or a Windows Phone in the last year, this new look will be somewhat familiar. Rather than clicking on the Start button in the lower left corner of the desktop to get to the Start menu, the new Start screen exists as a completely separate, full-screen interface for launching applications. It’s designed with tablets and touch-input in mind, and while the traditional desktop interface is still (mostly) there, you have to open it from the Start screen, as you would any other app.
Additionally, there are now two types of applications. There are traditional Windows apps that you interact with on the “old” desktop, including Office, Acrobat, Photoshop, etc., and there are new Windows 8 apps that you can only interact with from the new Start screen. These new apps are only available from the Windows Store and are similar to apps you’d find on a smartphone.
If that sounds confusing, that’s because it is. For your staff, this means that they’ll be constantly switching back and forth between two vastly different interfaces during their day. Yes, anything can be learned, but this new interface is a frustrating mess, and users will need a lot of training before they’re comfortable with it.
- Windows 7 is still pretty great
Windows 7 Professional was and is a great upgrade from Windows XP and Windows Vista. Yes, there are some solid backend improvements in Windows 8 Pro that will appeal to enterprise system admins, but for small businesses, Windows 8 adds very few benefits over Windows 7. All of your software runs well on Windows 7, and Microsoft will continue to support it at least until 2020, so there isn’t a lot of incentive to change.
- (Almost) none of your computers have touch screens
From our perspective, the only convincing justification for upgrading to Windows 8 is for touch-capable devices. Stripping Windows 7 and installing Windows 8 on computers that don’t have touchscreens really makes no sense. While Windows 8 Pro does work with a keyboard and mouse, your staff will be unnecessarily burdened with the confusing user interface.
- You have downgrade rights to Windows 7
For the foreseeable future (exact dates will vary by manufacturer), you’ll be able to downgrade a new computer that ships with Windows 8 Pro to Windows 7 Professional for free. This is especially important for companies who still haven’t finished upgrading their old XP systems. With downgrade rights, you’ll have time to standardize all your systems on Windows 7, without being forced to move to Windows 8.
So there you have it. Much like Windows Vista, we and our clients will be skipping Windows 8 for desktops and laptops and will continue to focus on Windows 7. To be fair, Windows 8 Pro truly is a modern and secure OS, but unless you are running touch-enabled software on a touchscreen device, we can’t recommend it for general use in small businesses..
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