I haven’t used this space to “Geek Out” for a while, so please indulge me. As most of you know, Microsoft decided to “innovate” their Windows Platform with the release of the new operating system (OS), Windows 8. However, we advised our clients not to convert to Windows 8 right away. With any major release of a new OS, there could be compatibility issues with existing applications, and bugs in coding that need to be addressed.
Beta-Testing—We Don’t Want You to Be a “Guinea Pig.”
When most new applications are released they’re still in a beta format that’s undergoing testing. We don’t want our clients to be “beta testers” for any new OS. You can’t afford to risk using a new system before its official release due to the speed of change in the world of IT. Since many of our clients depend on us to be their managed IT department, we try to control variables as much as possible to ensure a stable user experience. This is hard enough for us to do without Microsoft introducing a new interface with major changes that cause users to experience application issues.
Infinity Does the Beta-Testing For You
As a reputable and dependable IT provider, we can’t put our heads in the sand and simply ignore new releases. So in many cases we become the beta testers for both the vendors and our clients. It was for this reason that I installed Windows 8 on my personal office PC about two months ago. I also acquired a Microsoft Surface Pro (Microsoft’s Windows 8 Tablet) for the same purpose. My goal was to not only install all of our day-to-day applications on the system, but many of our clients’ applications as well, to determine what would and would not work. This has been an experience that I thought was worth sharing.
As with most things I tackle, I went “the extra mile” by putting an SSD (Solid State Drive) in my PC along with 16g of RAM. Neither of these steps is required to run Windows 8, but doing this made my PC run better. One of the reasons I did this was because I had purchased the PC about six months earlier, so it didn’t feel like this was much of an additional expense to me six months later. This would have also allowed me to reinstall the old Windows 7 hard drive if necessary. On the other hand, if I were purchasing a new PC these additional options would have pushed the total price to well above $2,000 for the unit before purchasing any software.
Installing Windows 8 on my office PC and network went well with only a few issues that any competent IT professional could handle. One frustrating issue that did arise was due to Microsoft’s promotion of their LiveDrive Cloud storage system to the extent that most of my setup and configuration issues involved getting the PC to act “normally” and not like a personal PC where I would have stored data on one or many locations across the Cloud.
Windows 8 and Its Metro Interface
So what’s Windows 8 like? First let me say I am not a fan of the Metro interface, the replacement of the traditional Start Menu. The Metro Interface uses tiles of different sizes to direct you to applications; much like the architecture on an iPad. Some of these applications will “live-update;” in addition, they don’t “window” so working with two different applications at a time can be frustrating. The traditional desktop is still there but without the Start Menu, and with so many changes in how you access settings and features, Windows 8 will take a lot of getting used to. Right now, Windows 8 Metro Interface may be good for personal use but more business-line applications need to be written. In terms of speed, I believe Windows 8 starts faster and not at the expense of application launch times.
One thing I found troubling was when I installed the Metro version of an application such as Adobe PDF Reader, I’d had to also install the traditional version to avoid documents from launching in the Metro interface. And I found that many traditional applications I use aren’t compatible with Windows 8—the version of QuickBooks I use being one of them. If you can figure out the security and setup configurations that have been tested and documented with Windows 8, you may be able to get them to work. These are the issues that are the most frustrating—the ones that fall into the “may-work” category. This is because the vendor either hasn’t started or finished testing and therefore provides vague or no directions at all. When this happens you must rely on an understanding of Windows 8 new security setting requirements. This can affect something as simple as running the installer or as complex as having to change the way an application or supporting applications run (“Run as Administrator” being the most common), and/or when Windows alerts you about possible security issues. I’m not a fan of making these changes, but they may be necessary to run certain applications. Once you get the hang of it you can launch traditional applications and access drives and files like you did with previous Microsoft operating systems. But, some of the changes you’ll have to make defeat to the goal Microsoft intended, which is to protect you and the OS from Malware and viruses.
Many vendors will eventually update their applications to work better with Windows 8, but let’s face it—with upwards of 75% of all company PCs still running Windows XP, they won’t be in a big hurry. The “must upgrade” category of applications might be the most expensive ones because you’ll have no choice but to upgrade them at some point; and if you need to run these applications on more than one PC, you could be looking at thousands of dollars in upgrades.
Microsoft Surface—The New iPad
“What about Microsoft Surface?” I’m glad you asked. The Surface Pro is a full-blown version of Windows 8, not the RT version that the original Surface came with. The RT version was developed for personal use and the iPad market, with a long battery life, controlled interface and hardware specs. The Pro version was developed for the business user and works like an iPad but uses a Windows OS. However, this does come with tradeoffs—namely battery life, size and interface effects. I’m getting just three to four hours of battery life with the Surface Pro.
The Surface Pro is larger in size than my iPad and comes with a very nice keyboard that doesn’t add any additional weight. The interface is better for touch in the Metro screen, but in the traditional desktop you have to convert icons to a size that you can touch easily. Plus you need to hold down to “right click” and I’m still struggling with this. But for a light laptop it’s pretty good—and for Tablet it’s just okay. In terms of pricing, it’s expensive for a Tablet and a reasonably priced for a laptop, which means to me that it’s overpriced.
In conclusion I’d say Windows 8 is here whether we like it or not. As more programs begin to take advantage of the changes and new interface, we’ll begin to see its positive aspects. If your IT support team hasn’t started the process of testing and verifying compatibility of Windows 8, I’d suggest you have them start. Especially if your main desktop OS is Windows XP.
It’s important to know that you only have until April 2014 to
make a full migration to Windows 8, or you’ll be running an OS with no patches or updates.
Thanks for allowing me the “Geek Out.” Write me and let me know what you’ve seen recently that made you “Geek Out?” I’d like to know because I’m always looking for my next toy (I mean project)!
Robert C. Betzel
Infinity Network Solutions, Inc.