Windows 8: Is it right for you?

Sanchez Williams, Systems Engineer – Network Management Group, Inc.

Ever since Windows 8 was released in October of last year I have been asked several times when I believe companies should consider upgrading to Windows 8.  Is it faster, better, and most importantly will it increase production are the most common questions I receive.

Let’s start off with the most important one; will it increase production out of my current staff?  Like all things technology this is best answered with “it depends.”  For most users my experience with the product would lead me to answer no.  In fact I would expect production to reduce and user frustration to increase substantially for the first few months of use while users get used to the new Metro Interface.  The Metro Interface completely changes how users access their applications by placing a series of tiles on the main screen in lieu of a Start Button.  The Metro Interface can be extremely frustrating and downright confusing to use.  Even after forcing myself to use Windows 8 for several weeks I still didn’t have navigating through the Metro Interface down and would commonly bypass it to get
my work done more quickly. Many people wonder why Microsoft switched to this interface and the short answer is they wanted the same Interface/feel through all devices (ie. Smartphone, tablet, laptop, PC) so that users can seamlessly move between them.  There is an obvious emphasis on mobile devices which is what makes using it as an everyday workstation so awkward.

The flip side to this design is that it works incredibly well with touchscreen devices, and not just tablets and smart phones.  If you work in a factory that uses touch screens instead of a mouse and keyboard Windows 8 is spectacular.  It is easy to navigate the Metro Interface with a touchscreen device and is quick and responsive.  Internet Explorer is available in the Metro Interface as an “application” instead of just a web browser, making it easier to use and overall better looking when using a touchscreen.

So did these major changes translate into a faster experience?  Boot times are noticeably increased along with login times.  During my testing it took about half the time to get from CTRL+ATL+DEL to a usable Desktop than it did in Windows 7.  As far as the experience once logged in there wasn’t really a notable difference in speed or performance.

This brings us to the final question and a great way to conclude, is it better?  If you are a company that heavily uses touchscreens throughout your company that I would give it a solid yes.  Windows 8 was clearly designed for use on a touch screen and both the feel and appearance confirm this.  However, if you are using it for everyday office use I can’t say I would recommend it just yet, at least not on a large scale.  I would get a test workstation or a Virtual Machine setup for users to play with and get comfortable before expecting solid production out of them.