What to Expect From Windows 8 and the Release Preview

Last month's Windows 8 Release Preview provided a sneak peek at what Metro apps will look like. The non-Metro desktop remains a mystery, though, so enterprises hoping to at least decide whether to adopt Windows 8 may need to wait until its final release.

By Jonathan Hassell
Mon, June 25, 2012

CIO — Last month, Microsoft released the Windows 8 Release Preview for general download. The "Release Preview" indicates that the build isn't quite a candidate for release. Instead, it's a nearly feature-complete reveal of what the final product will generally look like, with some notable exceptions.

Windows 8 is as controversial as Windows Vista was—for different reasons, of course—but the upheaval to the steady train that has been Windows continues nonetheless. Windows 8 represents a melding of Windows as we've known it into a new engine, a new application model and an entirely new platform.

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Naturally, that requires some careful consideration and exploration, so the Release Preview milestone seems like a fine time to step back and look at what we can expect from Windows 8 now that this build is released.

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With this build, we can finally start to make credible determinations about where Windows 8 fits in the enterprise. We can finally compare a reasonably close-to-finished build with the quite frankly superb Windows 7.

We're now able to see just how much added value there is for apps built for the Metro interface, the lack of a Start menu, the refined lock screen and other improvements to this operating system, because we can now start benchmarking, user experience testing and evaluating Windows 8 in comparison to the very solid, already released and perhaps even paid for Windows 7.

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It's easy to see that Windows 8 is primarily oriented at consumers. The move to Windows RT, Metro, the relegation of the desktop to essentially being an app, the updates to media players and touchscreen support are not enterprise-focused features. They are aimed squarely at individual users who are buying PCs and devices for the home. Regardless of what you'll hear from Microsoft and the laundry list of small improvements for business networks in Windows 8, the major effort to appease consumers is clear.

Windows 8 start-up screen
The Windows 8 start-up screen reflects an obvious appeal to consumers.

That's what makes the enterprise adoption question just as unclear. We can expect that the decision on whether or not to adopt Windows 8 won't be nearly as easy for enterprises as moving from Windows XP to Windows 7 or, conversely, skipping Windows Vista altogether. Windows 8 is a nuanced product that can mean very different things to various organizations based on usage patterns, employee and user demographics, size and budget. Tough calls are ahead.

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