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Windows 8 launch is a non-event for businesses

There's too many downsides, few upsides for corporate use

Windows 8 is going to get hammered in the next few weeks as consumers try out the new operating system for the first time.

Their reactions will likely differ little from those of reviewers who found much to complain about. The bottom line is that Windows 8 – particularly on a tablet – does not behave much like any previous Windows PC operating system.

That means Windows 8 customers have to learn something new, which is often a slow and tedious and unwelcome process. That’s compounded if the tasks being attempted are routine – that is they are routine if they are done using a familiar operating system.

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But when something that used to be routine becomes a project, then things go bad. For example, try to turn Windows 8 thing off. It’s far less intuitive even than the old Windows Start button that led to the Shut Down button in Windows 8, and it takes more steps. First pull out the hidden Charms bar from the right, choose settings, choose power, choose shut down. That’s complicated enough when done on a touchscreen and even less fluid with a mouse and keyboard.

That’s just one example. Try to find what applications are running. Try to find a particular application on the start page. Try to shut down an application. These can all be done and sometimes pretty easily once you know how - and with practice working on a Windows 8 tablet is pretty easy. But first you have to learn how.

In fairness to Windows 8 there is a traditional desktop view that pretty much works like Windows 7 so using it faces a much less steep learning curve.

That said, none of this makes Windows 8 a good choice as a workplace desktop operating system. Assuming businesses want to use the touch interface, that would mean replacing monitors with touchscreens – a needless expense for the productivity gains, which are pretty much zero.

Most businesses that are Windows shops are using Windows 7 or in the process of migrating to it from Windows XP. Windows 7 works, it’s stable and it’s going to be supported for years. Those just migrating to it will be reluctant to make a shift to Windows 8 anytime soon; it’s just too big a project.

That is unless there are significant benefits from making the change, but there aren’t unless the business has a need for deploying tablets to mobile workers. Then Windows 8 might make sense, but only for those mobile workers. Because Windows 8 is manageable and supports the popular Office productivity suite, businesses will likely prefer it to other tablets such as the iPad that don’t fit into the Windows management structure.

The initial success or failure of Windows 8 doesn’t rest with businesses. If it did, it would be a flop. Really, it’s all about consumers looking for tablets who are willing to try something new and who are willing to forego the cachet of the iPad.

Microsoft hopes they will see the benefits of the same familiar user interface across gaming, phone, PC and tablet devices, but that requires a sophisticated consumer who can imagine the benefits of that ubiquity and who are willing to single-source to Microsoft.

If the company is successful with that Windows 8 will find its way into businesses via bring-yoiur-own-device programs, but that won’t be for a while, and it won’t necessarily prompt businesses to buy.

(Tim Greene covers Microsoft for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at tgreene@nww.com and follow him on Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/Tim_Greene.)

More on Microsoft:

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Microsoft's sales model for Surface tablets is unfriendly to enterprises

If security were the only factor, Windows 8 would be a no-brainer

 Microsoft bets the farm on Metro 

Windows Server 2012 isn't available yet, but it's running Bing

Is Google taking a run at Windows 8?

Demise of Cius offers lessons for Windows 8

Why aren’t Apple and Amazon dumping on Windows RT?

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