Windows 8: The Adoption Question for Small Businesses
Now that the much-anticipated public preview of Microsoft's Windows 8 has come and gone, industry insiders are expressing strong doubts as to the suitability of the new operating system to provide IT solutions for business users. At issue is the "schizophrenic user interface behavior" present in Windows 8, which makes heavy use of a feature known as the Metro layer. This layer was designed for use on tablet computers but is now being extensively integrated into the Windows 8 experience.
Part of the problem with the Metro layer is in its implementation in Windows 8. Those who use computers on a daily basis to process their workflow soon develop a set of routines that become hard-to-break habits. Due to the way Windows 7 was structured, one of those habits may well be a tendency to press the Windows key on a frequent basis. Microsoft encouraged this behavior, making the Windows key a shortcut to a variety of functions that were otherwise somewhat laborious to access. Windows key-P, for example, brings up an instant way to change between extended-monitor and cloned-monitor modes for systems with two attached screens. Switching this way is much faster and more efficient than finding the properties dialog box for visual preferences.
In Windows 8, however, the Windows key switches a user into Metro mode, which looks and behaves so differently from normal Windows mode that many users may find themselves quite disoriented. As any IT consultant knows quite well, radically changing the graphical user interface of a product means that workers will need a significant amount of time training to become competent in the new environment. Windows 8 thus presents business users with two challenges. Employees may need extensive retraining in order to be able to operate in Metro mode, and even those with no interest in using the new mode will have to break themselves of the habit of pressing the Windows key when they need quick access to functionality reached that way in Windows 7.
The result may very well be that many or even most business users decide not to upgrade to Windows 8. Early critics are so sure of this result that they are heavily comparing Windows 8 to Vista; an OS launched with much fanfare but landed with a thud as far as many SMBs were concerned.
Businesses that need more information about the advantages and challenges associated with a move to Windows 8 should work with an IT consulting firm to learn more about their operating system options at this time.