Over the past year the Windows commercial team has met with hundreds of business customers to discuss their Windows 8 plans. From large to small businesses, customers are telling us that they are planning to adopt Windows 8 for many scenarios that will give them significant benefits. For example, most customers are eager to deploy devices that provide employees the convenience of a tablet with the productivity of a PC, while many are developing apps to help improve specific business processes. Still, others are expecting that their customers will be buying Windows 8. These businesses are creating apps to help build customer relationships and loyalty by providing their customers with great new services and experiences. Many organizations are also interested in taking advantage of the improvements made to the fundamentals, such as better security and faster performance. Others are looking at how Windows 8 can make life easier for their mobile workers. Regardless of why your organization is interested in Windows 8, you can be confident that one of the strong points of Windows 8 is its high compatibility with Windows 7. This will allow businesses to adopt Windows 8 devices in an environment with many Windows 7 PCs.
While IT decision makers are looking at Windows 8 for many different scenarios – from tablets, to apps, to groups of mobile workers – most are also thinking about their operating system migration plans and are asking us for recommendations based on where they are in their deployment processes.
So what’s your operating system adoption path?
This is an important question that organizations should be considering as the growth of end-user mobility, cloud-based technologies, proliferation of devices, and bring your own device (BYOD) scenarios means that each business now has its own unique adoption path to consider. One factor is abundantly clear: current technology trends call for more agile OS adoption approaches than what traditional enterprise deployment practices would historically enable.
Now that Windows 8 is available to enterprise volume licensing customers and will reach broader audiences on October 26, it is a great time for all businesses to identify where Windows 8 deployment can provide the most benefit, and integrate it into overall planning. As many of you are likely at various stages of operating system migration, I’d like to assist by outlining considerations that will help you determine the best Windows deployment path for your organization:
Customers with Windows 7 deployment in progress
Customers that are in the progress of Windows 7 deployments should continue deploying Windows 7 and migrate off of Windows XP as soon as possible due to the operating system’s forthcoming end of support slated for April 8, 2014. Taking advantage of the high compatibility between Windows 8 and Windows 7, we recommend customers identify employees and user groups that can benefit most from Windows 8’s capabilities and deploy Windows 8 for those people, alongside Windows 7. There are a number of key scenarios where we expect a vast majority of customers will get immediate benefits from Windows 8 adoption:
- Exploring the Windows 8 development platform to develop and pilot Windows 8 apps
- Using Windows 8 on tablets and other innovative devices to enable mobility and support scenarios where people rely on tablets solutions
- Preparing to support Windows 8 BYOD scenarios in the workplace
Of course, there are other great Windows 8 capabilities that can provide companies with just the right scenarios to start adopting Windows 8 side-by-side with Windows 7: Windows To Go, DirectAccess, security advancements, VDI improvements, and many more.
Windows 7 customers
Organizations with Windows 7 fully in place are in the best position to start taking immediate advantage of the benefits that Windows 8 can offer. High compatibility between Windows 8 and Windows 7 minimizes the amount of app testing and remediation as most customers’ current Windows 7 apps and hardware will work with Windows 8. As a result, it is easier for organizations to focus on evaluating and choosing Windows 8 scenarios that best fit their business needs. We recommend that customers start evaluating Windows 8 today for a side-by-side adoption with Windows 7 for key business scenarios.
Windows XP customers and early stage Windows 7 migrations
As previously mentioned, if you haven’t already, now is the time to begin XP migrations. Customers still running Windows XP in April 2014 will face the risk of running unsupported software. Further, most new hardware options will likely not support the Windows XP operating system.
Readying a company’s applications for moving from Windows XP can take a substantial amount of time. Therefore, we recommend that customers start the effort immediately, if the process has not already begun. To help accelerate this process, and aid in deciding the most relevant deployment path, it is important that IT organizations first gather an inventory of their existing apps and rationalize their application portfolio so they may focus on testing the subset of apps that are critical for the business, or for the target group of users within the organization.
By focusing on testing only critical apps, customers will be able to reduce the time needed to test their apps with Windows 7 and Windows 8. Additionally, we suggest that customers determine which parts of their organizations and end-user groups will benefit most from specific Windows 8 capabilities, and which will be best suited to deploy Windows 7.
Organizations may need to take different approaches to their operating system migrations due to the specific needs of their environment. For some, moving their full company to Windows 8 will be the best choice, and for others it may be migrating first to Windows 7. Still, for many, it will be deploying Windows 8 side-by-side with Windows7 for key scenarios, such as Windows 8 tablets for mobile users. Enabled by high compatibility between Windows 7 and Windows 8, this deployment option provides the highest level of OS flexibility for each organization’s unique need. The overall approach will depend on each customer’s individual situation taking into account the size of their company, number of existing apps currently in use, and many other factors. Therefore, it is important that customers give themselves agility in their adoption path by streamlining their app testing. And, like with any new technology, companies should plan to educate their employees.
To summarize, we recommend Windows XP customers focus on an accelerated departure from Windows XP, with the goal to move to an environment with Windows 8 deployed side-by-side with Windows 7.
Windows Vista customers
We suggest all Windows Vista customers start developing and piloting new Windows 8 apps today. We also recommend that customers start planning their company’s full migration to Windows 8. While Windows Vista is supported until 2017, Windows 8 will allow these customers to gain significant mobility, security and productivity benefits for their organizations.
I hope these recommendations have been beneficial to help kick-start your Windows 8 planning. Please check back here regularly for additional information about Windows 8. In the meantime, please feel free to read more about Windows deployment tools and guidance, as well as Windows 8 enterprise capabilities and benefits.