Windows 8: Advantages over a Windows 7 Deployment

Rob Enderle
Slide Show

Windows 8 Features Businesses Will Love

In a few days, Microsoft will be presenting Windows 8 to an eager audience at CES followed by a February beta (suggesting product availability is in the late September to late November timeframe). Most companies, according to Gartner, are currently planning to pass on this OS given they either have just finished, have finished planning, or are in the process of a Windows 7 rollout. However, there are some interesting things about Windows 8 to consider that may make it more sensible to wait and use this OS than move ahead with Windows 7. We'll explore that and also highlight the problem Microsoft will have positioning this product properly.


Windows 8 over Windows 7


There are a lot of changes in Windows 8. The biggest change in Windows 8 isn't the user interface, which is a blend of the one used in Windows 7 and Metro, the interface first seen in the Windows Phone 7 offering. It is the fact that it will run on ARM processors. ARM PCs won't run legacy code and they will only get the Metro interface. From your perspective, this means they won't run any virus currently in the wild and, given their initial low volume, will likely fall well behind even Apple as likely targets.


Part of the goal of a security plan is to institute a process that makes you the least vulnerable of peer companies in order to push criminals away from you and to those other firms. It sounds a bit Darwinian, but this survival-of-the-fittest strategy often goes to the core of why some firms remain untouched and other firms get hit.


By deploying Windows 8 on ARM, a firm could effectively take its desktops off the target lists for up to several years while the market catches up and the trade-off is the elimination of all legacy desktop code. But given much of that code may be a decade or more older, that it largely lacks even the ability to be updated, it may be about time to force a newer version or for the manager who owns it to finally put this aging code out of its misery and bring the entire desktop into the 21st century.


The end result of this deployment is a desktop environment that is largely immune to viruses, protected by built-in antivirus products (expected to ship with Windows 8) and lacking in all of that old unsupportable code that folks have put off putting a stake in.




As we have seen, iPads are swarming all though shops this year but they lack centralized control, they often can't be remotely wiped when lost and security on them is defined by one word and that is "bad." Largely, this is because this security is password-based and we know that password-based security is inherently flawed. Windows 8 provides an opportunity to not only have a common platform across all products, but also to select products that are designed for the enterprise and have a higher security profile with hardware that supports biometrics as a stronger barrier to access. The combination of a common platform and a more consistent security solution should prove compelling in environments likely to be targeted from disgruntled employees, terrorists and foreign governments - that pretty much includes everyone.


App Store


Finally, a number of IT shops have expressed an interest in living under Apple's App store and a fear of Android's largely because of the number of malware apps that have appeared in that ecosystem. Microsoft's Windows 8 app store is a blend of the best practices of both, providing the willingness of the Android products for application breadth and the curation of the Apple store assuring a malware-free environment. This best-of-both-worlds approach may make it easier for line managers to use this store to QC their code and for IT to get out of the middle of the process much like many do with the Apple App Store. In addition, the process the app goes through during approval is reported back and anomalies can be more quickly addressed as a result, assuring a more timely release of the related code.


In short, this might be a way for IT to pass responsibility over to Microsoft while still maintaining a high quality level on the custom applications. Better and cheaper are seldom seen together and should be well received.


Wrapping Up: Windows 8


The big problem with Windows 8 will be the number of choices. Historically, you got the professional version on one of two configurations: desktop or laptop. Now you'll get an additional hardware form factor and an additional choice, processor type, and it isn't trivial. This explodes the number of choices three times to 6 (ARM or x86 on tablets, laptops and desktops). The more choices the longer it takes to make them, but you may find one of these choices comes closer to your needs than the limited set you now have and you may want to consider the advantages of these extra choices before choosing between these OSes.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jan 3, 2012 2:28 PM Aaron Suzuki Aaron Suzuki  says:

'ARM PCs won't run legacy code and they will only get the Metro interface. From your perspective, this means they won't run any virus currently in the wild and, given their initial low volume, will likely fall well behind even Apple as likely targets.'

The part you're leaving out is that none of your old apps, some of which probably ensure that the business makes money, will run on Win8 on ARM. Migrating from XP to Metro-only-8 is a bad idea for businesses. I don't know of any businesses that will be able to successfully standardize on metro-only apps, and we are overlooking the fact that there are as yet no real metro apps to speak of. Moreover, ISVs have to rationalize selling their apps through Microsoft in a revenue sharing model which will be an adjustment for most business software manufacturers. It is also worth thinking twice about how IT will respond to trusting end users to get all the software they need, and how the enterprise will pay for these applications in volume. This is a nightmare scenario for many enterprise IT organizations: we have a platform that won't run legacy apps, a business model that is new to ISVs, and the distribution and licensing model is a risk to enterprise IT.

Manageability is a good reason to use Win8 over iPad, but not a reason to wait for 8 over 7. The best and perhaps only reason at this moment to wait is to buy more time for your software suppliers to provide Vista-forward-compatible software so you don't have to deal with app compat issues. Beta is looming, but Windows 8 cannot presently be evaluated beyond a highly unstable pre-Beta preview release, no supported hardware is available for it, and it technically has no supported applications.

Jan 3, 2012 3:15 PM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says: in response to Aaron Suzuki

Good points.  My point on ARM was against other alternatives like Apple or the ChromeOS and as a more secure hedge against viruses.    Agreed against a legacy x86 base that isn't an attractive choice.  

While you are right on the beta, the Gartner numbers suggest many won't be moving to Windows 7 until next year and by then there should both be more apps and a far better idea of the platform.   The timing would put you at the beginning of the Windows 8 lifecycle but mid Windows 7 which is slated to end-of-life in 2014 right now.   Windows 8 should be good till at least 2016.  

Given this is a major change like Windows 95 and Windows 2000 were rather than being at the tail end of the last major change (Vista/Windows 7) being at the front end of the next cycle which should extend to 2018 (Windows 9 should be the minor release on Windows 8) might, in hindsight, be the less expensive path.   

Though I agree, until we see beta code that is pure speculation.  


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