Taking Windows 8 into the Enterprise: The good, the bad, and the Modern UI

Image Credit: ShutterStock "business people sitting at a table for meeting with copyspace"

Windows 8 is a product that will define a new direction and open up a new revenue stream for Microsoft.  With its unique, hybrid style UI implementation, Windows 8 will dramatically change how we think of Windows going forward.

No matter your opinion on the OS, the direction is bold for Microsoft who for years acted conservatively when updating its Windows product. For many years, Windows updates were evolutionary, not revolutionary. Throwing caution to the wind, Microsoft took new steps in a direction and one customer is looking on with cautious eyes: Enterprise.

Over the past 5 weeks, Neowin had a unique opportunity to take Windows 8 (Release Preview) into the corporate environment and demonstrate the platform to decision makers within the IT department.  Our show-off extravaganza included 5 companies that span many different segments from manufacturing and consumer goods to public service. While we will not list the companies by name for numerous reasons, two of the companies have over 100k employees and bring in billions in revenue each year and the remaining three companies are private sector operations ranging from a few dozen employees to over ten thousand employees.

The point of the demonstration was not a sales pitch, but was simply to gain feedback on how the Enterprise segment was viewing Windows 8. For demonstration purposes, a Samsung Series 7 tablet was used running Windows 8 RP.

The typical meeting/demo would go something like this; I would ask who was familiar with Windows 8, what they knew/have heard about the platform and what their expectations for the upcoming OS would be. After talking through these points, I would then set the tablet on the table and let the folks in the room play with the device and try to understand how each entity could use this type of form factor in their corporations.

We would also try to answer any questions, demonstrate Windows 8 gestures and application process flow. The point of the meetings was to open the floor for conversation in the Enterprise environment, for better or worse, about Windows 8.

Their Background:

One of the first questions we asked was, “what do you know about Windows 8?” The answers varied as some had tried out the platform previews and others had simply read information from the web.

The consensus for Windows 8 fell into two buckets, “It works well” and “I’m really not sure this is for us”. The reason those two different opinions came out were mostly based on what the company was currently doing.

Some were writing off Windows 8 because they had either just finished up a Windows 7 deployment or were still in the process of migrating from Windows XP and the thought of supporting 3 versions of Windows at one time was “hernia inducing”.

Image Credit: ShutterStock Thumb up down stickers

The Good:

During the demonstration process on the tablet, the form-factor/UI was praised as being the missing link between the iPad and the laptop. Nearly all involved loved the idea of docking at your desk, taking the tablet on the plane with you and then docking at a remote office and having everything you need with you at all times. The brilliance, as one individual described it as “one form factor, two UIs and everything I need including a stylus”.

Beyond the first thoughts which revolve around the UI, one IT head said that Windows to Go was the “bonzi buddy killer” that they have needed for decades. The fact that they can use W2G on older Windows installs was also highly regarded as it will help during transition periods where a company could have deployed multiple versions of Windows.

Building on W2G, the simple factory reset options will save time and reduce downtime. When you combine W2G and built in factory reset (some third-party vendors did have this option), it streamlines documentation and workflow to make “re-upping” machines a simple task.

Other positives about the platform was the fluidness of the Metro Modern UI, the easy task switching when being held (tablet), and the ability to jump between the standard desktop and the new UI.  Consistency across the apps was also a positive experience and the versatility of the form factor was described as “refreshing”.

When you put it all together, most individuals enjoyed the Windows 8 in the tablet that we brought. While it was understood that the RP was a pre-release and the final product would have more to love, overall the feeling was positive among the IT folks.

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The Bad:

The other side of the coin resulted in some interesting, but well known, observations. One individual who was generally positive about Windows 8 stated “Our help desk will need more staff if we roll this out” indicating that he expects there to be a significant increase in help desk tickets.

The point was profound, the general consensus was who was going to train all of the staff who are used to seeing the start button as an application launcher and not a dashboard for operating? While most agreed that progression is necessary in the desktop environment, all who attended these meetings hope that Microsoft gearing up for a mass-consumer education spree to ease their transitions into Windows 8, if they make the jump. Even with the RTM video demos on load-up, most pointed out that IT would be doing the installs and the end user will never see the videos showing how to use the new OS.

The cost to upgrade, beyond hardware, was the sticking point for most of the discussion. There was also a disappointment in the lack of Windows 7 having a tablet friendly interface with one IT professional stating “we just upgraded, at considerable expense, our hardware and software; Windows 8, to get the most out of that OS, would require us to go through that same change again in a very short timeframe”.

When posed the question of running Windows 8 tablets alongside Windows 7, the idea was met with mixed reactions. The consensus said that it was plausible, but not practical as supporting two platforms at the same time only adds confusion to help desk staff as well as employees; no single entity would rule out Windows 8 because of this.

The consortium also provided a few new insights saying that the “iPad is what our employees are familiar with” and “we can role them out with little training” and even if it is easier for our developers to build “applications for Windows 8 based on familiarity” it’s “easier to train 10 developers on a new platform than thousands of employees on a new OS”.

Wrap-Up:

The demoing of Windows 8 on a tablet gained a lot of attention as it fundamentally challenges the standard deployment practices for most of the folks we talked too. While there are certain obstacles with the OS,  the consortium agreed, with caveats, that Windows 8 is headed in the right direction and that the platform is built to support growth not legacy.

We will leave you with one thought an IT manager stated during his time with the tablet, he said, “I can see the potential here, the question we have to figure out is how do we take advantage of it and how do we get our staff onboard”.

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"Our help desk will need more staff if we roll this out” indicating that he expects there to be a significant increase in help desk tickets."

imho Windows 8 is the easiest, noob-proof version of Windows when it comes to the end-users.

The good, the bad, and the Modern UI

While I'm not really into spaghetti western I'd think that makes "Modern UI" the ugly, then.

As I have said previously, I don't know of a single major IT department that hasn't already recommended a "pass" on Windows 8 on the desktop.

It doesn't matter if they are running Windows 7 or not, as it's not a hardware cost issue at all for them. If they have a business model that uses portable tablets, then the new Windows 8 devices will be on their radar, just like the iPad is.

They are skipping Windows 8 because...

It's a massive tech support issue. W8's GUI breaks best practices in fundamental ways. INVISIBLE main controls?! WTF were they thinking...

It's a huge step back in productivity. Nothing is faster to do in W8 (except the sliding of ugly squares). For example, hiding the realtime updating information widgets on the Start Screen defeats the entire purpose for them, since the main corporate applications will always be running full screen or on the desktop.

There's nothing worth training people over and over, since it's easy (for average consumers/employees) to forget the invisible controls and inconsistent/illogical locations schema.

In short, there is no reason for them to want to upgrade when all they need to do is train the occasional exec who just has to run a Windows 8 tablet on the backbone.

They are skipping it because it's a new operating system. My company skipped Vista and went to Windows 7. They'll probably skip 8 & 9.

Nothing is faster? A little dramatic don't you think?

The idea of "double-clicking" an item with the start of Windows 95 was a pretty radical and new idea. We think it's "normal" and "intuitive" today, but it wasn't during the release of Windows 95.

Here's a usability test of the mouse for Windows 95: http://channel9.msdn.com/posts...s-95-Usability-Testing-1993

Will this happen with Windows 8 for the hot corners? Definitely! But people will learn and adapt ESPECIALLY the younger generations.

reading the title makes me think im on dailmaily.co.uk,

keep it up neowin editors with the crappy misleading crap,
thank you.

good day to you

im laughing at everyone who says its something new to learn. the tiles are like icons, you click them and it launches the app. its not rocket science. please,you give it to a 5 year old and he will navigate it in no time. you would have to be retarded if you think its hard to learn.

vcfan said,
im laughing at everyone who says its something new to learn. the tiles are like icons, you click them and it launches the app. its not rocket science. please,you give it to a 5 year old and he will navigate it in no time. you would have to be retarded if you think its hard to learn.

Try turning it off or launching Paint, which does not have an icon on the Start Screen but is installed (at least on my RC version). It's different, people will have to learn something new. Not saying this is good or bad, just keeping the facts straight.

rvdv said,
Try turning it off or launching Paint, which does not have an icon on the Start Screen but is installed (at least on my RC version).

Searching for apps in Windows 8 is just like searching for things on Google. People should be used to it by now.

Windows 8 is Vista all over again. It will be skipped by most enterprises. Most enterprises haven't even completed their Windows 7 deployments yet.

RichardK said,
Windows 8 is Vista all over again. It will be skipped by most enterprises. Most enterprises haven't even completed their Windows 7 deployments yet.

The fact is that most enterprises skip every other Windows version regardless. Unlike consumers, enterprises value stability and saving money and don't just upgrade unless they need to. Most enterprises will skip Win8 because they're either in the process of upgrading to Win 7 or have just completed a Win7 upgrade, not because they don't like Win8.

RichardK said,
Windows 8 is Vista all over again. It will be skipped by most enterprises. Most enterprises haven't even completed their Windows 7 deployments yet.

It will be skipped but not because its 'another vista' - but simply because they are, as you said just in the process of upgrading from XP to 7, windows 8 could simply be a standard evolutionary OS for MS and the same enterprises would skip windows 8. Skipping windows 8 in the enterprise should not be seen as a failure of the OS for this reason alone.

Come windows 9, consumers would have had time using the OS on their home PC's and tablets which will lessen the 'training' curve, along with business ready modern style apps being available and to some degree more desirable (last bit was a hunch).

The new paradigm is here to stay, modern style apps and a more touch friendly experience is not going away any time soon.

I work for a large global organization and there is no way they are going to Win8. We are just now in the process of upgrading from XP to Win7 (I just got my new Win7 PC less than a month ago and there are others still yet to get theirs). We skipped Vista and we'll almost certainly skip Win8.
With Win8 being such a radical UI change waiting till Win9 will hopefully give users a chance to get used to the new UI (as well as a library of "modern" apps to be created) before they see it at work (reducing the need for special training.) Finally in my particular case there are exactly 0 work computers that are touch enabled and as far as I know there is no interest in going that route (no tablets, to touch monitors, etc) so a lot of the innovation in Win8 is lost.

I know this version of Windows will never pick up among the enterprises. I already know almost *ALL* rich companies in GCC will just skip over this version completely and that's a *HUGE* share of customers. Windows 8 is a disaster for Microsoft, time will prove this!

LUser said,
I know this version of Windows will never pick up among the enterprises. I already know almost *ALL* rich companies in GCC will just skip over this version completely and that's a *HUGE* share of customers. Windows 8 is a disaster for Microsoft, time will prove this!

Can you help me with the lottery numbers, seeing as you can see into the future....

efjay said,

Can you help me with the lottery numbers, seeing as you can see into the future....

I can say what I said above because I myself am a qualified IT Professional and people like me are tasked with deployment, maintenance and support tasks for these machines and operating systems across an enterprise. So I have the insight on this topic but unfortunately this insight will not help you with the lottery numbers, as that's not the domain of my insight. :-)

LUser said,

I can say what I said above because I myself am a qualified IT Professional and people like me are tasked with deployment, maintenance and support tasks for these machines and operating systems across an enterprise. So I have the insight on this topic but unfortunately this insight will not help you with the lottery numbers, as that's not the domain of my insight. :-)

I agree. The past two companies I have been with have both seen migrations from Windows XP to Windows 7. Why would Kroll Ontrack (a data recovery company) and Digi-Key (an electronics parts reseller) need to move from 7 to 8 unless we were going to incorporate tablets. KO would migrate lab machines because they are in the e-discovery and data recovery business and at DK , we don't have a need for tablets at the moment.

It's all based on timing. I could see more migrations from XP/Vista to 8 than I could of 7 to 8. It's just not that cost effective to migrate every time a new OS comes out.

And the demo was done using a tablet, the BEST environment to try Win8 on. I bet the feeling would have been worst if the demo was done with a laptop, you know, with a mouse and keyboard....

TruckWEB said,
And the demo was done using a tablet, the BEST environment to try Win8 on. I bet the feeling would have been worst if the demo was done with a laptop, you know, with a mouse and keyboard....

Without going into why I think Windows 8 actually performs wonderfully well with a mouse and keyboard, when most IT departments upgrade - they don't just upgrade the OS on their existing PC's, they buy entirely new machines. In the context of a business then, showing the machines they could be upgrading too and using within their organisation (i.e, convertible tablets) makes perfect sense.

ahhell said,
Why? The mouse pointer replaces your finger. Not exactly different, now is it?

there is a little more to operating systems such as the mouse pointer.

like uhh i dunno hardware ?
stability ?

do i need to state the obvious ?
again ?

"the vocal few" often see's people pushing Windows 8 so hard that
the underlying logic behind most of the chatter makes no sense to me at all.
I guess 1+1 = 3 if i say so right ?
ANd if anyone challenges my bad math god help them and their trolling ways lol

ahhell said,
Why? The mouse pointer replaces your finger. Not exactly different, now is it?

How do you move horizontally on the start screen with your finger?
- You swipe the screen

How do you do it with a mouse?
- Oh. Now there's a scroll bar.

This is probably my biggest gripe with everything I've seen of Windows 8 so far. The finger gestures just don't translate very well to using the mouse... as much as they want you to think so. As a result, what felt natural in your hands, feels awkward and weird with a mouse... and that's why I don't think Windows 8 wil do very well on the desktop.

cyberdrone2000 said,
How do you do it with a mouse?

Have you tried using the scroll wheel on your mouse? Scrolling up or down, scrolls left and right on the Start Screen. Even noobs should be able to grasp that.

Also, most mice made within the last decade should have a scroll wheel.

Now thats a balanced and enlightening take on Windows 8 in the enterprise. Far cry from all the vitriol and bile spewed by the vocal few on this site.

efjay said,
Now thats a balanced and enlightening take on Windows 8 in the enterprise. Far cry from all the vitriol and bile spewed by the vocal few on this site.

That vitriol and bile is spewed everywhere on the internet, not just this site.

That said, it is nice to see.

efjay said,
Now thats a balanced and enlightening take on Windows 8 in the enterprise. Far cry from all the vitriol and bile spewed by the vocal few on this site.

ya uhh little piece of the puzzle missing lol

Where is the feedback from these same people trying to use this on a desktop ?
And i don't mean for a few minutes either..

Throwing a Win 8 tablet on the table and coming to ANY conclusion
with NO desktops running WINDOWS 8 is kinda pointless i think.

vitriol ? bile ?
Am I "the vocal few" ?
Whatever..
#care
..join and idle i'll meet you there as many of my very old irc buddies would say

by the way.. you know if you guys backed off the provoking comments
"the vocal few" would be far fewer..

You guys target us that don't like windows 8 and draw us into topics
and then complain we're not letting you enjoy windows 8.

You know what ?
Go ahead and like it all you want i couldn't care less..
Just quit with the digs an jabs at those of that don't.

you guys bring it all on to yourselves !

I for one want to hear "the vocal few". Expression of opinion is what makes neowin great. If there were no differing viewpoints this would be a very boring and narrow-minded world to me.

superconductive said,
I for one want to hear "the vocal few". Expression of opinion is what makes neowin great. If there were no differing viewpoints this would be a very boring and narrow-minded world to me.

couldn't agree more.
The most valuable and usefull thing across the whole internet to me
is being able to reach everyone else and get their opinions etc
Software games media etc etc are ALL secondary for me.
I may not agree with people but i understand we are all entitled to have our opinions.
And most importantly they can express them.
Neowin seems fair i think at letting people discuss things.
Some other places might try and curb the discussions..
As long as we don't take things to a personal level i guess lol

I am Not PCyr said,

Throwing a Win 8 tablet on the table and coming to ANY conclusion
with NO desktops running WINDOWS 8 is kinda pointless i think.

Exactly!

Yes, IT staff will be carrying tablets\convertibles with them. What about normal office workers? Will they to have tablets and convertibles or regular desktops?

This article is a bit pointless.

thexfile said,
IT will not except Win8.

Better to wait for Win9 next year.


That's not true, I know quite a few companies that are already testing it out. I myself am using it at work already. It works fine for Enterprise users... but I do agree Win9 will be a lot more polished.

cyberdrone2000 said,

"IT will not ??? except Win8." What? Am I missing something?

He just means 'accept' instead of 'except'.

Even with the RTM video demos on load-up, most pointed out that IT would be doing the installs and the end user will never see the videos showing how to use the new OS.

This is true. I would hope there was a way for this to be re-triggered after an admin had finished configuring a user's account on a new PC.

TCLN Ryster said,

This is true. I would hope there was a way for this to be re-triggered after an admin had finished configuring a user's account on a new PC.


IIRC Windows XP let you watch the into video as much as you wanted to.

I agree with the last quote. It definitely has potential to do well in a business environment. There are many hurdles for regular users and IT staffs to overcome but once figured out, I think Windows 8 will do very well for businesses.