This article is part of our Essential Guide: Everything you need to know about Windows 8

Windows 8 OS is available now – but is it the right choice for your business?

Windows 8 combines a desktop operating system (OS) with tablet-touch functionality, which will bring benefits to some organisations - but not all

With the launch of Windows 8, Microsoft is taking a step into the unknown. In a bid to stop its lucrative PC operating system (OS) business losing sales to tablets such as the iPad, the software giant is making Windows 8 a tablet-first OS.

“We’re standing on the edge of a revolution, redefining what it means to use the word ‘device’. I think it has to date stood for phones and tablets and we’re walking into a world now where a device is just a computer,” said Anand Krishnan from Microsoft’s UK developer and platforms group.

Windows 8 aims to fill a void neither Apple nor Google has yet to occupy, namely the demand for an OS that works as well on a desktop as it does carried around on a tablet. Patrick Walker, head of IT at Beaverbrooks, is attracted by the Windows 8 as a tablet OS rather than as one supporting notebook PCs. The jewellery company is hoping to extend its mobile till offering, but is waiting for Windows 8 tablets to integrate with the rest of its Windows-based systems.

Windows 8 could offer Beaverbrooks a compelling alternative to MacOS and Android, since the applications the company uses will not have to be redeveloped.

“We use notebooks at the moment, which we are looking at replacing with tablets. We are waiting to see what Windows 8 has to offer, as it would be easier to move onto a Microsoft tablet rather than Apple or Android, as it would be more compatible with the rest of our systems, which are written in .Net,” said Walker.

Accounting software provider Sage is one of Microsoft’s launch partners. It has developed a version of its product for Windows 8. The new version uses the touch user interface, making it possible for users to do their accounts on a Windows 8 tablet.

Enterprise IT on the go with Windows 8

Windows 8 offers a way for IT departments to run the entire OS from a USB memory stick. This makes it useful to deploy when users want to run a secure corporate desktop from their home desktop, laptop PC or even at an internet cafe. It can also be used when an IT department wants to pilot the new OS without disrupting the installed OS.

Geoff Connell heads up IT at the London Borough of Newham and is head of business systems at the London Borough of Havering. He is looking to roll out USB memory sticks installed with Windows 8.

“We are currently only planning to deploy Windows 8 on USB sticks for remote access via home computers,” said Connell.

He expects the roll-out will involve 1,000-2,000 users across Newham and Havering.

Newham has been an early adopter of Microsoft technologies since 2004, when it signed a strategic partnership with HP and Microsoft, following a controversial tender process where the council pitted open source technologies against Microsoft Windows. The council also runs Windows Server 2012.

Windows 8 and the XP legacy

Many organisations are still in the process of moving from Windows XP to Windows 7, or have just completed the migration. This could greatly reduce the immediate adoption of Windows 8.

Windows XP is at the end of support and many organisations will be forced to upgrade to either Windows 7 or 8,” said Taavi Sepp, IT operations manager at the Energy Industries Council (EIC).

“However, Windows 7 has just about reached maturity, which will pose the question: if it’s fit for purpose, why change?”

The EIC is currently migrating gradually from XP to Windows 7, however the migration is being held back due to legacy Iris Integra CRM and Sage account applications, which are incompatible.

“We are looking to replace the products within the next three months and then move to Windows 7,” said Sepp.

He said Windows 8’s lower power consumption and relatively low system requirements make the operating system a good choice for enterprises.

Publisher Reed Elsevier is also migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7 and has no active plans to move onto Microsoft’s newest operating system yet.

“We’re making an investment right now, we don’t want to disrupt that by skipping Windows 7, which is an established mature operating system, to move to Windows 8,” said Jonathan Gregory, enterprise architect at Reed Elsevier.

What next for Windows 8

Windows 8 represents a milestone for Microsoft. It is combining desktop, laptop and tablet functionality into one operating system. It will mean users will only need one device, which can work while they are at their desk with a keyboard, while they are travelling and when they arrive at a meeting.

Some of the CIOs Computer Weekly spoke to believe Windows 8 will be the right choice for enterprises, because it avoids the complexity of supporting alternative tablet OSs, such as Apple’s iOS on the iPad and Google’s Android, that may not be compatible with existing enterprise systems and security policies. Newham & Havering’s Geoff Connell is keen to use the USB boot feature to distribute Windows 8 to remote workers, as a plug-on OS.

But Microsoft’s biggest barrier to Windows 8 adoption is its existing legacy, those organisations going through the pain of migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7. Many such businesses are unlikely to deploy the new operating system unless there is a compelling reason, such as to roll out Windows 8 tablets across a mobile workforce.

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