With Windows XP facing end-of-life and the Windows 8 preview in the public's hands, enterprises are considering a radical move: skipping two versions of Windows. Migration will be a very hot topic in 2012. With any type of strategic IT decision, organizations need to consider many different factors such as resources needed, costs, testing, compatibility and training.
While Windows 8 is loaded with new features, it also deprecates features users have grown accustomed to and it will require extra user training. But before you race to Windows 8, check out these 8 reasons why as a CIO, you shouldn't:
1. Devices have to catch up to OS capabilities
Windows 8 is more than the next Windows operating system. It is really about a whole new wave of devices and a new touch-oriented computing experience. Unlike other tablet or slate devices (e.g. iPad or Kindle Fire) that have hardware genetically tied to software, Microsoft is sticking with its model of empowering independent hardware vendors to create devices to run Windows. Because the paradigm shift with Windows 8 is bigger, the risk is greater to migrate early as vendors rationalize and perfect implementation of touch in Windows hardware.
Having penned the CIO's worst four letter word less than 100 words into this missive is telling. But really, no one thought twice about keyboard and mouse compatibility. With touch coming fully into the mainstream, we are being forced to consider all of the device changes we so easily forgot. There is also the not-so-small budget consideration around hardware procurement. You can count on first generation devices to be more expensive and less reliable and durable than their second or third generation successors.
2. A new breed of hardware is accompanied by new drivers
With the new wave of devices comes a whole new set of device drivers and the great IT pain point of driver management. In the past you could probably get by with the UPnP in-box driver that wasn't exactly the OEM driver, but worked. With touch and a new breed of wireless peripherals that will surely accompany these new devices, not to mention the deprecation of optical drives, driver management and smarter deployment will become critical. Because of the new capabilities of Windows 8 devices, workers may actually be rendered totally unproductive because of a driver issue that today would just be a nuisance. This is a potentially massive hit not only to worker productivity, but demand on IT for desktop support.
3. Windows applications have to catch up
The software industry has a lot of learning and then a lot of work to do. There will therefore be a big gap in time between Windows 8 being released for sale and software being properly developed for Windows 8's new capabilities. There is a whole new world of Metro for software manufacturers to learn. We will all have to implement Metro-based apps or portions of our apps properly into our products.
Until Windows applications get a chance to mature on Metro though, it could be very hit-and-miss in terms of the overuse and misuse of Metro, which could cause potential reliability and productivity issues. ISVs have had a heck of a time getting updated to the Vista/7 platform. The good news is that those apps should run fine on Windows 8, however they will be conventional Windows desktop only and not Metro-enabled. That being the case, why deploy Windows 8?
4. "Dear helpdesk, how do I turn off my computer?"
User training and acceptance is a massive consideration. I only listed it fourth because if you don't have a device to install an OS, stable drivers to run it properly and apps to run on the OS, you wouldn't put it in front of people. Unlike the move from Windows 95 to XP to Vista to 7, Windows 8 is not just a different looking start menu: there is no start menu. You no longer access the start menu to shut down. In fact, there is no default shut down option displayed on the UI when the user is logged in.
These seemingly very small things can be a huge disruption for even tech savvy end users. The better bet is to let users educate themselves through a few years of use on their own at home and then capitalise on this user-funded training to introduce the device at work.
5. Consumerisation security and the network edge
On the surface Windows 8 looks and behaves like a consumer product and you better believe the early success of Windows 8 will be with consumers. Everyone has taken their iPads to work and Microsoft expects you to do the same with a very capable Windows 8 slate device. This is tricky because individuals' decision to work from a Windows 8 slate is out of a CIO's control. The upside is that since it is a Windows device, it is much more manageable than non-Windows devices. At a minimum, any consumerisation or de-perimeterisation initiatives need to be driven by carefully conceived IT policy.
6. Tick-tock but not of the clock
There are releases of Windows that overhaul the entire code base (the so-called "tick" such as Windows 95 and Windows Vista) and there are releases that build off of or extend an existing core code base (the "tock" like Windows XP and Windows 7). Technically, Windows 8 is a tick release, which most organisations wait until at least the first Service Pack to implement, if they implement it at all.
7. Migration, again
Since it took so incredibly long to get to Windows 7, what is the organisation's tolerance to undertake another migration? Is IT prepared to jump into it? Have you evaluated all of the facets and ramifications? What projects are waiting and will be postponed if you move to Windows 8? Do you have the resources for another migration? Will you see an ROI with yet another migration so soon?
Most organisations are suffering from "migration fatigue" and don't have the energy, and ultimately lack the cumulative political will to undertake the entire process again.
8. The unknown
The last, but most important, reason not to race to Windows 8 is that no one knows what Windows 8 will really be when it is released. We have a very, very early release of the product, which was really only provided to get the ecosystem of hardware OEMs and ISVs, a group Microsoft depends upon to make Windows successful, working on making their products work properly with Windows 8.
There is a whole flywheel that has to get spun up for Windows to be successful. If you choose to be a part of that spin up, expect it to consume a lot of time and money as you join the OEMs and ISVs who are developing and refining products and tools to run on this exciting new platform.