Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, you’ll know that Microsoft will launch Windows 10 on 29 July. But what does this mean for businesses?
Firstly, it means making a decision about whether to upgrade or wait and see. Windows is a core part of Microsoft’s business, albeit declining in revenue over the years, and a repeat of the Windows 8 debacle where users stayed away in droves could well jeopardise the future of the company. Six years after its launch, Windows 7 still represents more than 50 per cent of all operating systems installed worldwide. It may well be undeserved – Windows 8 has many good points – but it’s not being too harsh to say that Windows 8 has been a failure. It accounts for only 12.88 per cent of the OS market, which is less than the now unsupported Windows XP (14.6 per cent).
This may be why Microsoft has taken the unprecedented step of offering a free upgrade to Windows 7 and Windows 8 users. Given the fragmentation of the Windows desktop market, this move may help reduce the number of operating systems that need support.
Sometimes free isn’t free
The free upgrade is a significant consideration, but there is likely more to it than first appears. For a start, Microsoft has yet to state whether Windows 7 or Windows 8 Pro users will get Windows 10 Pro, or whether they’ll just get the consumer version and have to pay to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.
This potentially makes a huge difference as Windows 10 consumer-version users will have little control over when updates are installed. The OS will automatically download updates in the background – the only option users will have is whether to reboot now or later. The Pro version gives you more control, but again Microsoft has not said how long the IT department or users can delay implementing an update.
Installed base an important consideration
While this ‘feature’ is a definite inducement to standardise on Windows 10 Pro, your decision to upgrade will depend heavily on your installed base – the desktop operating system your business is predominantly using now. If most PCs are still running on Windows 7, you’ll probably have noticed boot times and updates starting to take a lot longer than they used to as all the updates, service packs and patches load. All this time adds up, so from a productivity perspective it’s worth upgrading those machines that are still some time away from refresh. Crunching the numbers on licensing and the cost of supporting two operating systems will also reveal a probable cost saving.
However, if your business happens to be a new startup primarily using Windows 8.1 machines, the upgrade case is far less compelling as your people will have already learnt to live with Windows 8. For these environments, your decision will most likely come down to the final cost of the upgrade. If Microsoft doesn’t do a like-for-like upgrade and tries to hit up users for an update to Windows 10 Pro, it’s difficult to justify, as the appeal of Windows 10 really only looks great because Windows 8 was such an unwelcome departure from the well-established user experience. The reality is that most organisations will fall between the two extremes and have a mix – desktop PCs will still be on Windows 7, but laptops, with their shorter upgrade cycle, will mostly be Windows 8.1. In this instance, there’s a good case for upgrading the desktops – the laptops will catch up as they’re replaced.
Ultimately, if Microsoft does do a free like-for-like upgrade then it’s a no-brainer – having the latest, greatest version of Windows for every single user in the company will improve productivity, eliminate grumbling about Windows 8, reduce support costs and probably cut your licensing costs as well.
Is Windows 10 an improvement?
Windows 10 promises tighter cloud integration – both OneDrive and Dropbox will operate natively. The OS has also improved its data security. From a user perspective, reports suggest that Windows 10 is as fast to boot and shut down as Windows 8.1 on current hardware, and there will be no need for hardware upgrades.
Another great feature – especially if you skipped the Windows 8 upgrade – is that Windows 10 brings back the ‘Start’ button and the command prompt, which now lets you use Control-X and Control-C as shortcuts.
The ‘Continuum’ feature can tell if you are using a hybrid device as a desktop or a tablet and respond by serving up the appropriate UI. The almost useless ‘Charms’ bar has also been banished from the desktop UI – a definite improvement – although it still comes up when the device is in touch mode.
One UI to rule them all
Most commentators have played down the notion that Windows 10 will work on all devices from desktops to phones. Nevertheless, with Microsoft doing a lot to encourage developers to port their iOS and Android apps, don’t be surprised if small businesses in particular start to see the benefits of only having to manage one OS across desktop and mobile devices.
This article first appeared on ThinkFWD: (LINK).