Initially, I was of the opinion that organizations still running Windows XP wouldn’t or at least shouldn’t, skip Windows 7 and go directly to Windows 8. But as time has elapsed and migration numbers have not moved significantly I’m beginning to think that many organizations simply won’t have the option to buy Windows 7 by the time they get around to migrating.
That isn’t to say that they can’t run Windows 7. There will almost certainly be downgrade rights to run Windows 7 even if you’re required to buy Windows 8. But if you’re making the move, why not just run Windows 8?
Windows 8 can easily be modified (IT rocket scientist skills not required) to look and behave nearly identically to Windows 7. Windows 8 comes will all kinds of new features and touch capabilities, but you don’t have to use any of them. You can use it just like you would any other version of Windows you’ve run. Almost all of the applications I’ve been using on Windows 7, with a few notable exceptions, run the same on Windows 8 and they upgraded in place. Windows 8 is capable of running on any Windows 7 compatible device. (I’m actually running a preview version of Windows 8 on a device that came loaded with Windows Vista.)
The counter arguments are many – as hoards of technical people before me have often claimed, a major release of Windows, such as Windows 8, modifies the OS kernel and such low level changes pose a potentially great element of risk, causing many IT executives to wait for at least the first Service Pack prior to adopting a new OS broadly.
But it is 2012 and it looks like Microsoft is going to make it to RTM this calendar year. That is a truly amazing accomplishment, and the expediency of getting to market bolsters my argument further: if end of life for XP is in 2014, there will be 12-18 months of time for the entire ecosystem around Windows to gain momentum. Microsoft will have the time to tighten up the OS to at least SP1, if not SP2. Hardware vendors will be able to get on to the second release of devices that are compatible with Windows 8 and work out kinks from the first generation. ISVs will have lead time to get Metro apps created and tested for Windows 8 in both conventional desktop and Metro environments.
Migration will all come down to timing – if an enterprise waits long enough it will make sense to skip Windows 7 and go straight to Windows 8. But the reality is that I’m still speculating, as is everyone else, about the future of this greatly anticipated product.