So Cometh Windows 8!

With the unveiling of Windows 8 Transitional Computing Inc. finds itself reminiscing about Microsoft’s previous OS releases and musing about how this next release will affect IT professionals and the businesses we support.

Microsoft began its journey into market dominance of the PC world in 1985 with its release of Windows 1.0; an interface management system that would eventually be followed by several iterations of the OS and become an integral part of how we do business today. Though Microsoft is clearly a market leader for its operating systems support of business applications, they have on occasion released operating systems that have been a source of frustration for IT professionals and the businesses we support.

This is no more prevalent than in Microsoft’s release of Windows Vista. Though the OS was touted to have many improvements over its predecessor Windows XP (mostly in the arena of security features) it was plagued with performance issues. Benchmarks tests showed that Vista executed applications more slowly than Windows XP with the same hardware configuration. Further issues such as software bloat, software compatibility, poor power management on laptops, and the price to upgrade from XP to Vista all combined to make Vista an impractical solution for business owners and IT professionals alike. This had the unfortunate result of leaving business owners two generations of OS behind.

When Microsoft released Windows 7 in July of 2009 nearly 3 years after the release of Vista most business owners still found themselves running on an XP platform. Windows 7 was met with mostly positive acclaim. It easily out performed its predecessor Vista in the areas of usability and functionality with most reviewers saying Windows 7 is what Vista should have been.

In the eyes of IT professionals and business owners upgrading to Windows 7 however still had its drawbacks. With the general impression consumers and corporations had that Windows Vista was a stumble along the OS road, most consumers were reluctant to upgrade to what some considered a dressed up Vista. Upgrade fees were rather steep even for users upgrading from Vista to 7. Upgrades were available for users still running on an XP platform but only in the form of license upgrades.

What did this all mean for business owners?

Well, the small percentage running Vista could install Windows 7 over top their existing OS with no need to back up their applications and data or fear that their Vista applications would not be compatible with Windows 7. On the other foot XP users found that they had to perform “clean installs” and actually do all of the above listed things Vista users were not required to. From the perspective of Business owners this made the prospect of upgrading from XP to Windows 7 a daunting task. Even with the positive acclaim Windows 7 had received most did not see any meaningful advantage to upgrading.

As of April 2011, nearly 2 years after its release, Windows 7 has finally overtaken XP in the US market share. The “what” and the “why” of how Windows 7 finally replaced it’s twice removed predecessor can be attributed to several factors. One notable reason was Microsoft’s release of XP Mode for Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate. Initially available in Oct. 2009 as an application that launched a virtual XP environment, XP Mode allowed users to run legacy software that did not run natively inside Windows 7. This first iteration of XP Mode required microprocessors with hardware support for virtualization. Ironically the target audience that Microsoft was trying to reach with XP Mode, namely small to mid-sized businesses, now found themselves required to update their hardware in order to upgrade to Windows 7 making the cost prohibitive. Microsoft has since released an update that removes the hardware requirement for XP mode making it available to a wider range of users.

So where we are we at now with Windows 7?

  • Stable efficient OS – Check
  • Legacy software support – Check
  • A market share larger than XP – Check
  • Compatible with a larger array of hardware specifications – Check


Just when we feeling we are in good a place with Windows 7. So Cometh Windows 8! Well technically that’s not true. At recent press conference when Microsoft gave us all our first look at the upcoming Windows OS they did announce that Windows 8 was not projected to be released until late 2012.

As IT professionals however it is our responsibility to keep abreast of these developments and try to predict what impact this will have on our clients.

At first glance Windows 8 looks to be Microsoft’s big bid to enter the “post PC era”. If you’re not familiar with the term “post PC era” well its actual definitions seems to be a subject for open debate, but in reference to Windows 8 “post PC era” seems to refer to the switch over from desktop and laptop computers to the wider use of mobile devices such as tablet computers and smartphones.

The interface for Windows 8 is in fact based in part on the current Windows 7 phone interface. If you’ve never seen it before don’t feel bad. The Windows 7 phone was poorly marketed and made barely a squeak on a mobile device stage that has been recently dominated by Apple and Android based smart phones and tablets.

As one would expect since the new OS is based on Smartphone technology it leans heavily towards touch screen based interactivity. Most of the demos Microsoft has put forth thus far tend to focus on the touch screen features. This is not to say Windows 8 is going to leave mouse and keyboard users out the cold. Though it is designed for the “post-PC era”, Windows 8 looks more to us as though it is a bridge between device and dedicated PC users.

With such a drastic shift of focus some of you may be wondering how much consideration Microsoft put into compatibility. Microsoft has assured consumers that Windows 8 is not abandoning the Windows 7 usability model, it is expanding on it. Windows 8 will be able to run current Windows 7 applications on a comfortably familiar Windows Desktop. The Windows 8 Desktop will have expanded control for multi monitor displays allowing deeper customization of the view controls for each screen. What could throw some desktop users for a loop is the Windows 8 start menu, primarily because it is no longer a menu. Windows 8 will feature a customizable “Start Screen”, a full screen tiled display that allows you to group apps together and swipe through several tiled groups. While this may be familiar enough for Windows 7 users to get the hang of, those migrating from XP might have a slightly steeper learning curve with this feature.

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