Editor's note: Friday November 11, 2011 marks the 10th anniversary of Microsoft's announcement of third-party Tablet PCs. To commemorate the occasion, we're publishing a series of three stories. This is the third of three. (See also: Microsoft's Tablet PC turns 10 and Confessions of a Windows tablet user.)
Where other media outlets have mainly focused their coverage of the topical changes made to the operating system, we felt our readers would be better served by looking at the various factors we found baked into the developer’s build, and how they might affect your business, IT deployment and most importantly, your employees.
Wide variety of deployment options
Windows 8 will be available to consumers and enterprise users to deploy on traditional and touchscreen equipped personal computers, as well as Intel, AMD and ARM-powered tablet computing devices. An intriguing “Windows To Go” option also exists, allowing IT managers to deploy a fully functional, managed image of Windows 8 and any applications they require to a USB flash drive, which can be plugged into a USB 2.0 or 3.0 port and operated on any Windows compatible computer.
Functions with existing Windows 7 software
In a difficult economy, it’s a both a bonus and a relief to see that Windows 8 is already capable of running most Windows 7 legacy software natively. That’s huge.
Optimized for touchscreen
While Windows 7 offered touchscreen functionality, the user experience in this environment was abysmal. After using Windows 8 for over a month on Acer’s W500, we’ve not only found the OS touchscreen interface to not only be functional, but outright pleasurable to work with.
Improved Multi-Monitor Desktop Management
In most office environments, operating a PC with multiple monitors isn’t just an option—it’s a productivity must. Windows 8 will up Microsoft’s multi-monitor game by offering users an improved desktop management experience with helpful features like the ability to install a task bar on each screen, all of which can be configured with different applications, making adapting the UI to suit your needs a breeze.
Integrated Security Features
Microsoft has integrated the best features of Microsoft Security Essentials and Windows Defender into Windows 8, ensuring that every piece of hardware the OS is deployed to is secure with no additional software installations required.
Legacy Apps Won’t Work on ARM Systems
Many organizations will be disappointed to find that while Windows 8 is designed to run on low cost ARM powered hardware, many legacy applications, such as Microsoft Office, are not. Many tablet users may end up having to invest in additional productivity titles.
While Windows 8’s much touted Metro interface might make touchscreen computing less painful than it was with past versions of Windows, it’s a departure from the status quo. No doubt the days of many IT professionals will be filled with questions from frustrated employees struggling to adapt to the new UI.
Tablet Adoption Rate
With well established platforms like the iPad already so deeply embedded into both consumer and enterprise ecosystems, it’s difficult to ascertain how popular Windows 8 powered tablets will be. Few purchased tablets mean less potential customers for software developers, and in turn, less interest in developing all-important apps.
The Windows 8 Developer Preview offers a single iteration of the OS. When Windows 8 is officially launched, this may not be the case. Experience with the last three version of the operating system have shown us that Microsoft tends to diversify its offerings at the expense of its customers. Will there be separate versions of Windows 8 for PC and tablet hardware? Time will tell.
To date, no mention of a price for boxed copies, multi-machine or OEM licenses for Windows 8 have been suggested by Microsoft. As such, it’s impossible to speculate whether upgrading to the OS or adopting new hardware capable of running it will be a cost effective alternative to adopting Android, iOS or QNX powered tablets.