Why these two IT execs are taking a "wait and see" approach to Windows 8

Credit: Robot Skirts via Flickr

Microsoft's new Windows 8 operating system is making a big splash as it debuts Oct. 26 in New York City, but the big unknown is how enterprise IT leaders are viewing its potential impact for their businesses and workers.

Two IT executives told CITEworld they will certainly take a look under its hood, but from what they've seen so far, they have no plans to deploy it deeply inside their companies.

"Right now, the answer would be 'no' to a rollout of Windows 8," said Merv Tarde, the CIO at Interstate Batteries.  

A key reason against it today is that Interstate is still in the midst of a Windows 7 rollout to the second half of its approximately 750 Windows users, said Tarde. Also, Interstate's fiscal year begins on May 1, so there are many months to go before he'll finalize the budgeting process for new technology and make upgrade decisions. "I wasn't thinking about Windows 8 when I did my last budget."

Tarde is also unsure about app compatibility, and wants to confirm that any Windows 8 tablets he'd consider for deployment would allow Interstate employees to continue to use must-have applications such as Microsoft Office.

The situation here is confusing to say the least -- Windows RT, a variant of Windows 8 that runs on ARM-based tablets, does not run any apps built for older versions of Windows, including the currently shipping Office 2010. It ships with tablet-ready preview versions of four Office 2013 apps -- Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote -- but lacks other new Office apps, such as Outlook. Meanwhile, the full version of Windows 8 runs old versions of Office, but it isn't available on Microsoft's own Surface hardware yet.

Doing due diligence on app compatibility will take some time. But if those needs are met, Windows 8 tablets could potentially be a future technology answer for some of Interstate's workers, Tarde said, especially in comparison to getting new desktop computers. Tarde said his team will keep watching for progress on the tablet front.

Brian Greenberg, vice president of technology operations for Total Attorneys, a vendor of cloud-based business applications and services for law offices, agreed with a slow approach with the new OS. He told us that Windows 8 doesn't even show up presently on his "top 50" list of IT tasks for his company.

"I installed an instance of Windows 8 on a virtual machine to play around with it," said Greenberg. "Yes, it's a new interface, I know that’s the big hoopla," with a tablet-like appearance featuring "panes" rather than traditional icons.

"For the enterprise, though, I'm less interested in the shock and awe of a pretty GUI," said Greenberg. "I care about how it works and whether it will enable the people who work here to be more efficient and better at their jobs. I see no evidence of that and I haven’t read any evidence about that, but I admit I haven’t researched it that heavily yet."

He continued, "From the standpoint of Microsoft, I think it's great that they are push to be more innovative and are taking risks. I'm excited to see what any manufacturers bring to the market. But more than anything else, it has to enable me and my team members to do their jobs better."

He's also skeptical because Windows 8 was designed for touch screens. That may make Windows 8 less-attractive for software developers, systems administrators, and others who are accustomed to working with a keyboard and mouse, said Greenberg.

That issue also makes it harder to see the business drivers that could justify a move to Windows 8, he said. "I have to repackage all my applications and the development system, and [buy new] hardware including touchscreens, too," to take advantage of some of its new capabilities.

"I love technology," said Greenberg, "but when you run a business, you have to be business-driven, and not technology-driven. If you implement a new technology and it makes your company's widgets not as good, then what value is the technology?"

In such a case, said Greenberg, it's just a new fad.

Both Tarde and Greenberg said they'll likely bring in a few Windows 8 desktops, laptops, and tablets soon so that a handful of developers can experiment and put the software up to some in-depth testing. But widescale deployments are a ways off -- if they ever come.

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