With the release of their new operating system, Windows means business.
But does business mean Windows?
Microsoft only mentioned Windows 8 Enterprise in passing when the announcement about the new OS was made – including no specific details. Perhaps this signaled their focus on the consumer market, or perhaps it meant that they’d not quite outlined what sets Windows 8 Enterprise apart from other versions.
Regardless, their brave new direction – in terms of the ‘Metro’ design – could leave some disenchanted, and force some of the more conservative users into unwanted adaptation.
Early research suggests that after the first month, Windows 8 had between 1-1.5% share of the OS market. This compares with Windows 7 nearing 5% during ts first month of release.
But there must be some features of this new operating system that work for businesses? After all, this is Microsoft’s most valuable market;
1. Windows to Go: This is likely to be a big selling-point for Microsoft – the ability to put a Windows 8 Enterprise install on a USB stick or portable hard drive, and boot it up from another computer. This allows flexibility with choice of employee devices, and importantly, creates an easy backup option. This feature is ideal for colleagues who are on the move, as they can fit the whole environment on an easily portable device.
2. Faster Booting-up: Not limited to Windows 8 Enterprise, but apparently the new ‘Unified Extensible Firmware Interface’ solution will take you to Windows in roughly 8 seconds – akin to the revered swiftness of a Mac. ‘UEFI’ also includes some interesting security upgrades, protecting from boot malware infections and preventing any unauthorised OS from loading up.
3. Surface: The iPad is the tablet of choice at the moment, but the advantage of Microsoft’s Surface is that the user can run the full Windows 8 OS. The ability to have this ‘on-the-move’ flexibility will no doubt attract many businesspeople to both the Surface and Windows 8. In the words of Erwin Visser on the Windows Blog, the Surface is a “no-compromise business tablet that will mean businesses no longer have to choose between the functionality of a tablet or the productivity of a PC”.
4. AppLocker: A fairly basic feature, but could be important for business. AppLocker allows administrators to restrict the applications or folders that specific users can access on the system
5. Easier Recovery: There are two options for recovery; ‘Refresh’ and ‘Reset’. ‘Reset’, as you can imagine, reinstalls Windows back to the condition it was initially, which can take up to 25 minutes. ‘Refresh’ reinstalls Windows but maintains all personal data, applications, and important information.
6. BranchCache: Initially brought in for Windows 7, BranchCache is also supported in the new Windows 8 Enterprise OS. This feature optimises bandwidth performance by caching files and folders locally, so they can be shared internally peer-to-peer. This means that employees don’t use valuable bandwidth accessing these files from the central server, and ultimately this makes the process quicker too.
7. Runs on Existing Hardware: Microsoft have guaranteed that Windows 8 will work on machines that currently operate Windows 7. This will make any large-scale upgrade much easier to implement. They also claim to expect that 8 will work on even older hardware, although this is not a guarantee as yet.
8. Traditional Desktop: It seems strange to label this inherent Windows feature as a benefit, but Microsoft understands that many won’t be 100% comfortable with the new Metro design, so provide the option to navigate to a desktop-like UI. This is a benefit for the more conservative users, and will help companies ease their employee base into Windows 8. It’ll be impossible to avoid engaging with the Metro apps completely, but allowing users to see its’ integration with existing Windows features may help people adapt.
There is major concern about the practicality of using Windows 8 on a desktop PC. “Now people don’t have to choose between productivity and convenience” says Tami Reller, Chief Marketing Officer for Windows. Clearly, the main theme is to focus on 8’s mobile benefits, and a promotional video on the Windows blog cuts in clips of Reller using a Surface, while paying lip service to the idea that “it works great with keyboard and mouse”.
After reading many comments and reviews, the inability of Windows 8 to boot directly to the desktop seems to be a popular criticism. But Microsoft are putting all their trust in the Metro app design, so understandably might be worried that introducing this option would take the wind out of its sails.
This stubbornness is a risk because users not comfortable with the Metro tile design may be tempted more than ever to go out and buy a Mac. But part of the attraction is Windows’ audacity to dramatically alter the most successful OS in history – which creates more buzz than a gradual evolution of Windows 7 ever could.
It might just be a game-changer.