Why Windows 8 will be good for your business

Microsoft

Yesterday, a shock wave reverberated through the tech industry: Microsoft unveiled the consumer preview of Windows 8-- what the company in the old days would prosaically have referred to as the "beta version."

While Windows 7 was an incremental and measured enhancement from Windows Vista, Windows 8 is shaping up to be a dramatic and revolutionary change for the operating system. Indeed, the difference from Windows 7 is akin to the difference between Windows 3.1 and Windows 95.

That kind of dramatic change in operating systems is often seen as a bad omen for business, since there's significant cost in training employees to use their new PCs. But there's good reason to believe that Windows 8 will be a winner for Microsoft and a great thing for your business.

You can read a lot about Windows 8, but here are the three key things you should know about it:

The traditional Start menu is gone. It's not just that the start button has changed shape, like it did in the move from Windows XP to Windows Vista. It is completely gone, replaced with a "Metro"-style, side-scrolling start screen filled with program tiles, modeled after the new Windows Phone interface. But you still get to the start screen in the same place as you do today -- in the lower left corner of the desktop -- or from the new command bar that appears on the right side of the screen when you put the mouse in either corner on the right side of the screen.

There are now two application environments. There's the traditional desktop, of course, as well as the new full screen "Metro" interface. All of your existing programs, including line of business applications, will still work on the desktop. The Metro, or Modern interface, though, is home to all-new, full-screen apps designed to be bought and sold in the new Windows Store, sort of like iPhone apps.

It's built for touch. Have you had your eye on an iPad or some other touch device for a mobile workforce? Windows 8 might be the perfect solution instead. You can get a real sense for how well Windows 8 will fill that role by exploring the consumer preview, particularly if you install it on an existing touch-enabled laptop or slate (like the ASUS Eee Slate EP121).

So where's the upside for business? If you're a software developer, it's obvious: The Windows Store is the single biggest opportunity in the history of computing. It's a store, like the one in every phone and tablet on the market, fully integrated into the biggest and best selling operating system on the planet. If you're not already developing an app for Windows 8, it must mean you're not a software developer.

And even if you're not in the software business, the simpler development environment to create the Modern Java and HTML5-based apps means you can create new business applications faster, cheaper and more efficiently. That means you can finally abandon that barely supported database you created in 2002, and get a truly modern update that will save you time, money and training time.

You can get try the Windows consumer preview at the Windows Website.

Have you installed it? What do you think? Sound off in the comments.

Dave Johnson was employed by Microsoft Corporation at the time this article was written.

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