Microsoft held its first major unveiling of what's in store with Windows 8 at the D9 conference this week. Windows 8 looks bold. It looks slick. It looks impressively innovative. But, it also looks like it will be a major battle to convince business users to embrace it.
To be honest, I think that Windows 8 looks awesome. Despite my repeated pleas to Microsoft to abandon the concept of Windows on a tablet, and instead adapt Windows Phone 7, Windows 8 looks like it will be a very capable tablet platform. Perhaps that could be because Windows 8 looks more like Windows Phone 7, or the Zune interface than it does the Windows 7 I know and love.
What Microsoft demonstrated with Windows 8 is a distinct departure from the Windows OS that drives 90 percent of the PCs in the world. Businesses will be reluctant to rush too quickly to embrace Windows 8 because of the culture shift it represents, and the possible drag on productivity as users acquaint themselves with the conventions and features of the new interface.
Users abhor change. And, if it is a change they don't like or don't understand, they automatically throw it into a pool called "change for the sake of change". It doesn't matter that the ribbon interface in Microsoft Office is more efficient and intuitive than the traditional file menu bar, it hasn't stopped a significant segment of Microsoft Office users from whining about the ribbon interface. Users averse to change don't care that Jump Lists in Windows 7 save time and help make them more productive, they don't comprehend why they need to learn something new.
That is how Windows 8 will be perceived. I have no doubt that the changes Microsoft is introducing in Windows 8 will make the operating system better. Once users get through the initial learning curve of adapting to the Windows 8 interface, they will be able to navigate the OS more quickly, work more efficiently, and get more done. But, many will stop at that initial learning curve and instead bemoan why Microsoft had to change things that worked perfectly well for them in Window 7 / Vista / XP.
One of the selling points of Windows 8 is that it actually uses fewer resources than Windows 7 and will not require new hardware. But, I beg to differ. It may not require new hardware to run and be functional, but in order to take advantage of the touchscreen features that seem to define the Windows 8 interface, new hardware will be required. Without new hardware that embraces the unique qualities of Windows 8, it seems like a less compelling move.
Perhaps some businesses will be more likely to make a switch from Windows XP to Windows 8 because the OS is so dramatically different that it creates more of a value perception. Companies that feel apathetic about moving to Windows 7 because they feel that Windows 7 is nothing more than Windows XP with some extra eye-candy, may find the complete revamp in Windows 8 compelling.
But, I am going to go out on a limb and say that companies that feel that way will be few and far between. The vast majority of customers will either feel that they haven't yet gotten their money's worth out of the investment in migrating to Windows 7, or they will be scared off by the completely new user interface in Windows 8, and the flashy "consumer" feel of it all.
Personally, I can't wait to start using Windows 8. I'm just not sure businesses will be as anxious to make that leap.