Quick Roundup to Help SMBs Understand Windows 8

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    As Microsoft takes the wraps off Windows 8 today, SMBs are no doubt anxious about what Microsoft’s major upgrade to Windows will mean for them. Indeed, small businesses and SOHOs may be at the greatest disadvantage in terms of deployment flexibility, given how they are most likely to purchase desktops and laptops that come with Windows 8 preinstalled, and may not be able to easily downgrade to Windows 7.

    Indeed, the large number of devices with varying form factors can be intimidating to SMBs, who may be uncertain if their existing applications will function the same way on Windows 8. Below is a quick roundup of a few key aspects of Microsoft’s largest operating system release in years.

    Desktop Interface

    Microsoft has re-engineered significant chunks of Windows, adding a “Modern” tile-like user interface that you have no doubt already seen in the countless blogs and articles about Windows 8. Under the hood though, it retains the same desktop interface that workers are familiar with. To access it, simply tap on the tile labeled “Desktop” at the Windows Start page.

    As in the past, applications designed for Windows 7 should work just fine on Windows 8, though businesses with many custom-written applications will probably want to run some validation tests before a full-fledged deployment. In addition, organizations that have deployed Active Directory will be able to manage them as they would Windows 7 and earlier devices.

    One caveat, though, is that Microsoft has also created a new category of “Windows RT” devices that are modeled after tablets — more on that later. For now, businesses that are only interested in a traditional desktop interface can be sure they have the right device by checking that it runs “Windows 8” or “Windows 8 Pro.”

    Windows Start Page

    The Windows Start Page is always present in Windows 8 and can be accessed at any time, with apps downloaded and installed from the Windows Store. SMBs that don’t intend to harness its capabilities can safely ignore it, though SMBs keen to adopt existing software to the Modern UI will need to rewrite their applications.

    On the bright side, the design paradigm for a Modern UI app is clean and not mired by obsolete UI widgets, resulting in a high level of usability for touch screen devices. Moreover, such apps written for Windows 8 and Windows Pro can also be quickly recompiled at the Windows RT platform with minimum tweaks.

    Windows RT

    Envisioned as an operating system optimized with the battery efficiency of tablet devices in mind, Windows RT is built on Windows 8 but tweaked in accordance to this design philosophy. The result is that Windows RT tablets will not run traditional Windows desktop applications, or even Modern UI apps not specially compiled for it.

    So unless your organization requires only the Web browser, apps found on the Windows Store, or your own Windows RT Modern UI app, Windows RT devices are probably not the right choice for deployment in your business.

    Ultimately, regardless of whether you are looking at a tablet, convertible Ultrabook or hybrid device, being able to identify if Windows RT or Windows 8 is running under the hood will give immediate clarity on the device’s capabilities — or limitations.

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