When you boot up your PC each morning, which logo do you see: Windows XP or Windows 7? If it’s the latter, you are running a great operating system and, if you’re happy, you should probably stick with it. In fact, Windows 7 is the most successful operating system in history. There are 630 million Windows 7 PCs, far more than the total for all devices sporting an Apple logo. I have spent the last three years telling people how wonderful Windows 7 is, and I stand by that.
But if every day you look at a Windows XP start-up screen, I have some advice for you: take a look at Windows 8, because you’ll see a lot there to like.
Should I stay or go now?
Stick with Windows 7 if you’re running a fairly new computer and that environment works for you. But you should consider switching to Windows 8:
- if you simply like working with the newest, shiniest and most impressive technology; there is enough in Windows 8 to keep you happy
- if, like millions of others, you installed Windows XP on a recent PC. Windows 8 is years newer and simply far better
- if you are in the market for a tablet or a touch-enabled device, Windows 8 is an obvious fit for you.
And, of course, if you plan to buy a new PC after Oct. 26, 2012, it will come with Windows 8.
If you’re on the fence about switching to Window 8, here are five reasons to consider doing so.
Need for speed
Speed is going to be a huge selling factor for Windows 8. Boot-up time drops from a minute or more to less than 10 seconds, and that is on an average PC with a traditional spinning-platter hard drive. In fact, the entire user experience is vastly improved, with better and smoother transitions. Partly, this is because the code is more efficient and partly because the memory management functions have been rewritten. In layman’s terms, applications that you are running but not currently using are put to sleep, accessible in seconds but not taking up valuable RAM.
Your apps your way
Talk of the “post-PC era” is silly, but tablet devices have become very popular. The problem with other platforms, though, is owners must use different applications on PCs and tablets. With Windows 8, you won’t have this issue, because your OS and applications will be the same on all your devices.
Take me with you
If you like to have all your applications and settings with you wherever you go, Windows to Go (WTG) may be for you. Operating systems are usually installed on a hard drive and used from there, but WTG allows you to install Windows 8 on a USB key and boot into it on any PC, including older PCs running previous operating systems.
So you can build a WTG stick (including applications, domain membership, files, user preferences, Direct Access, etc.) to carry and work from the office, from home on the same PC the kids use to play games, or at an Internet café in Argentina where spyware and virus protection is questionable. It doesn’t matter, because you will be booted in as you, to your own environment, and local spyware would be bypassed and irrelevant. Of course, because it is Windows you can encrypt the key using BitLocker and even lock out access to local hard drives.
It all works
The hardest part about the XP upgrade was application compatibility: many applications we had been using for years just stopped working in Vista and then 7.
XP applications will not work any better in Windows 8, but all the applications you have on Windows 7 are going to work on Windows 8. That means you don’t have to go out and buy new versions of applications, and for corporations there will be fewer transition headaches.
What about me?
The most visible change is the Metro interface. For the first time in 25 years, users booting into Windows will not see a traditional desktop, but rather a full-screen Start menu made of larger and smaller icons. Why? Windows 8 is the first Microsoft OS that is designed for touch. It will look and feel a lot more like a tablet device than a PC, even if you are not using a touch-enabled device.
I have to admit I was initially ambivalent about the new interface. It seemed restrictive to those of us who grew up on the desktop. But you will have an easier time if you have a touch-enabled device, and even more so if you have multiple screens with Metro on one and the desktop on the other. That has made my life easier, especially as we wait for the new Microsoft app store to populate with Metro-style applications.
The feature that made my transition from doubter to enthusiast is the desktop. While Windows 8 is fresh it is also very different, and as someone who lives on his laptop I was hesitant to take the time to get used to the new interface. But I found I could use my Windows 7 applications the way I used to—on the desktop—and that gave me productivity on the desktop while exploring Metro. And I am now a Metro convert.
It took me awhile to fall in love with Windows 8, but I believe that most people who give the new OS a whirl will agree with me. Again, if Windows 7 does it for you then consider staying there. But with Windows 8, Microsoft has done a great job of creating a productive environment for today, and creating a path toward a touch-enabled future.
The new OS features advanced support for multiple screens
hits the streets Oct. 26, 2012, and the download price from Microsoft is a bargain: upgrades from Windows XP, Vista or 7 will cost only US$40, with Windows Media Center as a free add-on. Microsoft promises the “Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant makes upgrading simple by walking you through the upgrade process step-by-step.”
In the war for cool, Microsoft just shot back
Recently Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer shocked the world of hardware manufacturers: Microsoft is making PCs. The new Microsoft Surface tablet is a game changer and, while Microsoft may claim otherwise, competes directly with Apple’s iPad line.
Surface will come in two versions: one with an ARM processor and the other powered by Intel’s Ivy Bridge. The ARM-based model is slightly thinner than the newest iPad and will run Windows RT, a pared-down version of Windows that runs only Windows 8 (Metro) applications and does not include many enterprise security features. It is scheduled to launch with Windows 8 on October 26, 2012. The Windows Professional model will be a bit thicker (13.5mm) and heavier (0.9kg), but will have the features RT is lacking. Its launch date has not been set.
Included in both models is a magnetic cover that folds into a keyboard, and a built-in kickstand. It will work as a tablet or laptop without any accessories.
Is Microsoft getting ready to follow Apple and prevent third parties from building its hardware? Hardly. But I suspect Microsoft is sick of hardware vendors making the same old stuff and watching Apple win the war for cool. The Surface is a shot across the bow at vendors who have gotten lazy, letting them know great design wins. If Dell and HP and Lenovo won’t do it, then Microsoft can and will.
Mitch Garvis (www.garvis.ca
, @MGarvis) is a partner with SWMI Consulting Group and a Virtual Partner Technology Advisor for Microsoft Canada. Among his numerous certifications are several MCITPs, as well as the new MCSE: Private Cloud. He lectures and trains on a variety of topics including System Center, server virtualization, desktop deployment and security.
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