Microsoft Windows 8: Love It or Skip It?

October 19, 2012   //   News

By Jessica Davis| MSPmentor

Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT)new operating system — the first one designed specifically with tablets and smartphones in mind — makes its debut next week, and the launch has been garnering plenty of attention. That attention has come even though the rumored release of Apple’s iPad Mini is also coming next week. So what’s the buzz about Microsoft Windows 8 among MSPs and businesses?

Well, there’s plenty of interest in the new OS and in Microsoft’s software and devices that will be released sometime over the next several months following Windows 8’s premiere. And there are plenty of devices that will come out next week running the new OS. But that’s where the momentum stops. Like they have with so many new Microsoft operating systems before, businesses are taking a conservative approach towards Windows 8. Early adopters are the MSPs themselves and the IT departments of businesses.

Oak Brook, Ill.-based MSP SWC Technology Partners typically hosts customer luncheons each month drawing 70 to 80 people, according to Pete Lee, engagement manager at the company. Lee told me that sign up for this month’s luncheon, scheduled to coincide with the Windows 8 launch next week, has already drawn 130 people. SWC is holding the event at a mall restaurant close to a Microsoft store and Microsoft representatives will be on hand to show off some of the new devices featuring Windows 8.

Curious, but Cautious

“People are curious how it will impact their business,” Lee said, talking about the high enrollment in the event. “A lot of customers are thinking of Windows 8 in a wait-and-see mode. They are probably going to wait until the first service pack comes out to see if it’s worth it. This is such a new technology for Microsoft.”

Their cautious approach is not unprecedented. Lee says that market estimates show that 45 percent of desktops out there still run Windows XP. “There’s still a lot of folks out there that due to cost or application incompatibility haven’t moved to the newest OS,” Lee said. Or even the one from a generation ago. Lee says that only about 10 percent of SWC’s customers are still on XP.

Great Price, But is it Worth It?

Microsoft is offering a software upgrade to Windows 8 to customers for $40, well below how Microsoft has priced previous OS upgrades. So is it worth the upgrade?
Probably not so much for desktop users. The only benefit they’ll get is to be able to access Microsoft’s app store, Lee said. Forget about touch screens.

The biggest benefit will be to the mobile workforce — the people who today are taking their iPads wherever they go. For these users their desktop experience will be synced among all their devices — if they’ve gone all in with Windows 8 — PC, smartphone, tablet. (HP had planned the same approach with its webOS-based hardware but aborted it quickly.) Their settings will stay the same for all their devices. To better serve the mobile user, Microsoft has dumped the Windows start menu, leading many to wonder how PC-only users will adjust to living without it.

The Big Question

But here’s the main question — will business users give up their iPads in exchange for the convenience of having a tablet that is designed to work with their Windows PC? And can Microsoft’s consumer play via retail Microsoft Stores really think it can trump Apple in a play that Apple has already perfected?

Or will people like Windows 8 enough to adopt one tablet and phone for work while sticking with their iPad and iPhone for personal use? As the owner of more than one tablet, I can understand the idea of a use-specific device (I love my 3rd generation Kindle that remains by my bedside) but I can’t see myself toting around more than one tablet if there’s one device that can suit my needs wherever I go.

What are you hearing from your customers? Are they interested in Windows 8 for tablets and phones? If not, is there another reason why they are interested in Microsoft’s new OS?

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