With the Windows 8 Consumer Preview available and Windows 8 slated to be released in December of this year, concerns about what this upgrade may entail are wide and numerous. The touch-centric OS is a complete departure from previous Windows versions and many experienced Windows users have fond the learning curve for the new OS steeper than other versions. However, as Microsoft prepares for the December release, changes in company policy and new marketing efforts may make the upcoming release and possible upgrade tenuous, at best.
The OS, which is based on the tile-based Windows Phone OS, is both physically and operationally different from other iterations of Windows. Most noticeably missing is the Start button. The Start button has been the single-most iconic feature of Windows, making application interoperability and shell functions easy to find and use. Instead, Windows 8 features a Charms Bar, which offers access to settings and quick access to search. In addition, there is a current limit of two applications displayable at one time. Also, the desktop is only a program compatibility application that exists as a link on the Metro (the official codename for the Windows Phone OS port) shell level. The desktop functions as its own shell level, with its own applications and files; so, for example, the IE on the desktop has different settings and favorites than the Metro IE. All of this makes Windows 8 convenient for tablet use (it is meant to compete against the iPad and the Android OS), but a completely new experience for PC users. That’s not to say that corrective changes will not be made before the official release, or that it is easy to learn; it’s just different, which adds to training costs and time.
Microsoft plans on phasing out Windows XP support by April 2014 in an attempt to convince enterprise users to upgrade from the aging OS. With a market share among all desktop PCs of 46 percent, the removal of support for the OS promises a major boost in OS sales, according to Microsoft. As Windows 7 is the most-likely upgrade for this market, this places Microsoft in a comfortable position to upsell Windows 8, which is less resource-intensive and utilizes Windows 7’s capabilities. Erwin Visser, speaking for Microsoft on The Windows Blog, said “migrating now to Windows 7 will set businesses up well to embrace Windows 8 in the future, as IDC found that all indications at this time are that the move from Windows 7 to Windows 8 will be seamless for applications and non-impactful to existing hardware.”
Microsoft is hoping that its security improvements will be a major draw for upgrading to Windows 8. An upgraded Windows Defender with built-in anti-virus program, SmartScreen with automatic malware sweep built into the shell, UEFI (United Extensible Firmware Interface)—which would speed up booting time and make the system more resistant to bootkits and rootkits, a new password system that consists of a 4-digits PIN and a picture password that involves making gestures on an image, and upgrades to the kernel makes this Windows the most secure ever.
However, an over-reliance on new gizmos without offering the essential components business users need will bring back a situation similar to the ME or Vista, which Microsoft desperately want to avoid. Only time will tell if enterprise users embrace Windows 8, or just wait for Windows 9.