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Planning for Windows 8

The good news for CIOs is that Windows 8 won’t require any additional hardware over and above Windows 7. In what is clearly a response to criticisms levelled at Vista, Windows 8 will be able to run on current generation hardware.

Many of the big changes in Windows 8 are at the user interface. The old Start Menu that was introduced in Windows 95 and refined through to Windows 7 is gone. Its replacement is the tiled interface that was first seen in Windows Phone 7. The great benefit for CIOs is that a single interface is going to be available to users from phone to tablet to desktop.

One of the biggest problems with previous incarnations of Windows has been that it was never made to work with touchscreen, keyboardless devices. Although there have been many manufacturers create hardware with stylus and soft keyboard interfaces, the rise of iOS with multi-touch capability has changed what users expect in a mobile device.

Steven Sinofsky, the president of Windows and Windows Licve Division at Microsoft says that “Windows 8 will not require any specific enhancement to hardware in terms of memory, disk space, CPU than Windows 7 and will run on Intel, AMD and ARM based chips.”

Mike Angiulo, corporate vice president of Windows Planning, Hardware and PC Ecosystem, says that aim of Windows 8 is to “make the user experience a natural extension of the device, from the time you turn on your PC through how you interact with the applications

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you know and love. This represents a fundamental shift in Windows design that we haven’t attempted since the days of Windows 95.”

An obvious question for CIOs is around application compatibility. Nothing has been formally announced but history tells us a couple of things.

Applications that work with Windows 7 – other than low level utilities – are likely to work without any significant problems. CIOs will need to plan carefully and test key applications but they aren’t likely to hit major issues.

The changed user interface in the operating system will potentially require a revision to the look and feel of other applications. Typically, the release of a new version of Windows is closely preceded or followed by an update to Microsoft Office. CIOs planning to move to Windows 8 ought to think carefully and plan for a potential review to Microsoft Office.

Migrating users between systems will be made easier with the concept of portable workspaces. Users will be able to store their persoanlised desktops on an external storage device such as a USB stick and then use it on another system.

With Windows 7, Microsoft invested heavily in educating the channel and customers in migration and automation. It would seem reasonable to assume that updated versions of key Microsoft tools such as SCCM will continue. 

Microsoft has confirmed that product activation will be refined so that existing methods of bypassing activation, such as the BIOS SLIC (Software Licensing Information Code) that allows a system to appear as if it can use an OEM copy of Windows, will be shut down.  Although that might not be a specific issue for IT managers, changes in how Windows Activation works will need to be checked to ensure that machines that are used away from the office for extended periods aren’t deactivated while away from the corporate LAN.

Developers might have been hoping that apps built for Windows phone could be easily migrated but it seems that Windows 8 apps will require different tools even though they share many interface similarities. However, it is still early in the public life of Windows 8 and Microsoft has shown in the past that they can react and change course after receiving feedback.

Microsoft is running a conference from 13 to 16 September 2011 called BUILD (see http://www.buildwindows.com/) for hardware and software developers looking to get ahead with their Windows 8 projects.