Microsoft's upgrade avalanche a challenge for IT pros

Corporate technology managers must take time when deciding on Windows, Office upgrade path

By , IDG News Service |  Software

In addition to the new Metro UI, Microsoft officials have been promoting Windows 8 enterprise features like Windows To Go, which lets users boot and run Windows 8 from USB devices like flash drives; simpler ways for end users to manage their connections to Wi-Fi and mobile broadband networks; and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) improvements. Windows 8 also features security enhancements, such as a new secure boot process.

In addition to the version for x86 PCs that use chips from Intel and AMD, Windows 8 will also come in a version for devices that use ARM chips. This version, called WOA (Windows on ARM), will be built on the Windows 8 code base and will probably run mainly on tablets built on chips from ARM licensees Nvidia, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments.

Like Windows 8 PCs for x86/64, WOA devices will be able to run Metro-style applications from the Windows Store created using WinRT APIs. WinRT stands for Windows Runtime and contains the API (application programming interface) library for building Metro-style applications.

However, WOA PCs will not run, emulate or port existing x86/64 desktop applications. WOA will include desktop versions of the upcoming Office 15 applications, like Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, that have been designed for touch-based interfaces and for minimal power consumption.

Despite the broad availability of the beta version since late February, it is still too early for enterprises to be even considering adopting Windows 8, IDC's Gillen said.

"Windows 8 isn't even in Release Candidate code yet, so it's premature for most organizations to make any business decision about replacing Windows 7 with Windows 8. We need to see the finished product first," Gillen said.

Gartner's Silver believes that Windows 8 will largely be bypassed altogether, except in specific cases, such as in organizations that want to deploy Windows-based tablets to their users. It has become popular for users to come to work with their personal smartphones and tablets (mostly Android and Apple iOS devices), the BYOD trend. Microsoft wants to enter that party, but Windows is currently a small player in tablets and smartphones.

At hotel titan Hyatt, the work to upgrade desktops from Windows XP to Windows 7 began in 2009 and continues today. The company expects to complete the upgrade of all 34,000 desktops in North America by the end of this year.

Hyatt's CIO, Mike Blake, is very impressed with Windows 7, calling it "a great product." While not closed to Windows 8, Blake said there are still many unanswered questions about the new OS.

"I've wavered from one end of the Microsoft spectrum to the other. I was a hater and now I'm more of a proponent, and a lot of it has to do with Windows 7," he said.

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