New Windows for your PC – I can see clearly now!
Microsoft recently launched Windows 8 – This release has been met with a fairly intense response either positive or negative. Should you upgrade?
What’s the difference?
The issue is that the cosy Windows Desktop that you would probably think of as being Windows is no longer the be all and end all. Instead Microsoft is shifting emphasis to what they call the ‘Start Screen’. Designed primarily to work with touch devices, some people have found this too different; whereas, others have quickly found it to be a very productive addition. Some have claimed that in an Operating System that is obviously designed for both Desktop and Tablets, that the Desktop loses out. Would you like a touch screen Desktop?
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The desktop still works as it did in Windows 7, with one glaring omission the lack of a start button, and it is important to note that if you upgrade your PC it is very likely all your Windows 7 applications will still run. The Start button is the cause of most consternation amongst reviewers and it is initially confusing; just how you get to your programs?
Windows 8 has the concept of hot corners and if you bring your mouse to the bottom left of the screen, incidentally where the Start button used to be, and click then you will be presented with the new start screen. If you think of this as a full screen version of the old pop-up start menu then things become more comfortable. In fact it doesn’t take at all long to get used to.
The new Start Screen is designed for touch but is still easy to navigate with mouse or keyboard – although there are at the moment some inconsistencies in the latter with the various start screen apps implementing keyboard use in different ways.
Yes I did say Start Screen Apps – these are full screen applications that run from the start screen. You can run old Windows 7 programs from the Start Screen but these will launch the desktop and run in there. They also won’t have the power of the new apps to have their own live tile on the start screen.
All applications on the start screen are represented by tiles: some small, some larger. These tiles can be what Microsoft calls ‘live’ that is to say they can show updating information available at a glance. For example, the calendar tile shows your next appointment. This fast and fluid updating of information available at a glance is one of the real strengths of Windows 8 even for desktop users. Another thing that Start Screen Apps, or Windows Store Apps as Microsoft likes to call them, have going for them is they can usually be shrunk to take up a third of the screen while still being functional. Imagine having your Emails visible on the left third of the screen whilst say still working on a set of estate accounts on the right hand side.
Other advantages of Windows 8 are that the core operating system has been re-written to be faster and use a lot less resources. Old Windows 7 programs do seem to be snappier when running in Windows 8. One area you will notice a real improvement is in start -up time. My PC boots faster than it does in Windows 7. It also runs faster. This means for smaller businesses an upgrade to WIndows 8 may be a cost effective way of getting more performance out of older equipment.
Microsoft is betting a lot on Windows 8. It is really encouraging developers to build Windows 8 apps and I have a feeling that over the next few versions of Windows we will see less and less emphasis on desktop working.
One reason for this shift in emphasis by Microsoft is their need to start re-capturing market share from tablets like the iPad and Google’s Nexus range. To do this they have introduced another Operating System: Windows RT. Whilst Windows RT behaves and looks a lot like Windows 8, and indeed shares a lot of the same plumbing, it is very different in one very important respect :it will only run apps designed for Windows RT (this includes most Windows 8 Store apps).
Let me re –emphasise that Windows RT will not run Windows desktop applications. It does have a Desktop App but that is limited to running Microsoft provided applications.
These do include a full version of Office which does make the devices very useful. This is especially welcome when you realise most RT tablets, like Microsoft’s own Surface RT, will have some form of keyboard attachments. As a tool for carrying Excel spreadsheets on you and actually being able to manipulate them easily this could prove to be a very good tool.
Big IT departments are probably also going to love the locked down nature of Windows RT. However this is equally important for the smaller business – for example it will be incredibly difficult to get a Trojan or Virus on RT. RT may however be a bit limited for your business unless all you do is use Office on the go.
So is Windows 8 for your business? If you look past the fact that it is new and ‘different’ then yes. The new full version of Windows 8 has many worthwhile features and the current upgrade costs well under one hundred pounds so make upgrading attractive.
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