Should I wait for Windows 8?

by Aaron Suzuki, CEO of SmartDepoy

Until very recently, IT teams and their tools have controlled hardware allocation, the operating systems deployed throughout the organization, as well as the timetable on which new OS migration takes place. But with the potential for workers to bring their own Windows 8, with its Metro interface for touch screens, devices to the office, IT’s task has become more difficult. Will it be possible for employees to force an organization’s hand and push early support of Windows 8?

Windows 8 is going to be more capable and more ready for the enterprise infrastructure than any of the Android or iOS devices on the market. Non-Windows tablets are generally limited in a business environment to run email, calendaring, and some Web apps that are supported in their browser. Windows 8 on the other hand, has the full robustness and capability of other Windows platforms in terms of application operation and manageability. If it can join an Active Directory domain, people will join their Windows 8 devices to the domain and expect “normal” interoperation.

So a possible IT nightmare scenario looms: non-standard hardware running an unapproved OS and legions of workers expecting IT to support them by pointing to the CEO whose iPad has been supported by IT for years.

There are a variety of ways to address this, but it will require IT involvement. There has to be some preparation and proactivity on the part of IT to be ready for this potential new wave of IT demand and the potential security threats that accompany this unique generation of devices. The end-state is that companies are left trying to support the IT-deployed and managed operating system while also supporting employees trying to utilize their personal devices on the network. IT could be in a position where, unless they are prepared, they will be forced to support Windows 8 whether they want to or not.

In order to prepare for Windows 8 devices, IT departments can take precautionary steps and evaluate current policies and consider what new policies to create in light of Windows 8, before it comes to market. With the right policies in place, IT organizations won’t be surprised or frustrated by knowledgeable workers who expect IT to help them use their home devices for work, rather they will be in a more strategic position to either operationally support employees or decisively prohibit use of personal devices at work, and that will help IT stay squarely aligned with the needs of the business.

After 7 comes 8

As consumers are forcing enterprises to support their latest devices, enterprises will have to decide how to handle their deployment strategy. Depending on the deployment timeline an organization has targeted, some might find they are better off skipping Windows 7 and going directly to Windows 8. Many organizations simply won’t have the option to buy Windows 7 by the time they get around to migrating.

But if organizations are ready to deploy Windows 7 now, they should continue with their migration plans. You shouldn’t put your project on hold and wait because if you are among those who deploy Windows 8 early, you will undoubtedly find that users will spend nearly all of their time in the classic Windows desktop, and it is very likely IT will be required to make modifications to Windows 8 to operate and look like Windows 7.

This is out of both necessity and sheer practicality. With Windows 7, both users and IT knows what it’s investing in. IT gets a proven, generally stable operating system. Users get another version of Windows with incremental learning required to be efficient.

The decision to migrate directly to Windows 8 will depend on a variety of factors including your company culture, your worker’s technical abilities, and the technical level of the work you’re doing. You also need to consider hardware investments, and whether you will be able to get touch-enabled hardware that can really make the most of Windows 8 that is reliable and within budget, and you also have to consider whether your applications will run properly on Windows 8.

Eventually, the OS you choose for your migration will depend on timing. If you wait long enough, it will make sense to skip Windows 7 and go straight to Windows 8. But the bigger strategic consideration is how you will approach OS migration over the next decade and beyond. We are witnessing a relatively quick turn-around between the release of Windows 7 and Windows 8. It is reasonable to expect the time between major releases of operating systems will be just as swift in the future.

The smartest money is to evaluate your strategy first, with a good, hard look at the entire landscape. We have observed that our most sophisticated customers are in no hurry. They are slow to make change, and very methodical when they do; operating IT from the singular perspective of empowering the business and constantly making it more efficient. Stay where you are until you’re good and ready to move. And when you are ready make an informed decision that is going to be most beneficial to your organization.

Aaron is the CEO and co-founder of SmartDeploy, a recognized leader in providing IT systems management solutions that reduce the time, cost, and complexity of managing Windows clients and servers.