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About the author

Jessica Twentyman

Jessica Twentyman

Jessica Twentyman is an experienced journalist with a 16-year track record as both a writer and editor for some of the UK's major business and trade titles, including the Financial Times, Sunday Telegraph, Director, Computer Weekly and Personnel Today. Jessica has also worked on contract publishing projects for organisations as diverse as the Institute of Directors, Microsoft, 3i, BT, English Heritage and the Royal Bank of Scotland. Jessica is the editor of IP EXPO Online. Contact Jessica on jessicatwentyman@ipexpo.co.uk

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Gartner: “Windows 8.1 could become what Windows 8 should have been”

03 Jul 2013

Features of the new user experience offered by the software giant in its new operating system represent a considerable improvement for business, say analysts at the IT market research company.

Software giant Microsoft recently announced new features in its Windows 8.1 operating system (OS) and, according to analysts at IT market research company Gartner, these represent a considerable improvement for businesses weighing up their desktop OS strategies.

Early announcements suggest advancements in the OS’s Start button functions, the ability to boot to the desktop and an Internet Explorer (IE) upgrade to version 11. Microsoft has not yet disclosed other features, but has said that Windows 8.1 will be a free update for those customers already using Windows 8 and the new OS is expected to ship by the end of the year, in time for holiday device sales.

“After Microsoft unveiled Windows 8, the newly introduced user experience was criticised,” say Gartner analysts Michael Silver and Steve Kleynhans. “Some users complained about the lack of discoverability, help or cues for the new user experience, and many rejected Windows 8 because of the changes. Based on the information currently available, we believe that Windows 8.1 could quite most of its detractors.”

Other enhancements include better settings for roaming with mobile devices, due to tighter integration with the consumer-targeted SkyDrive cloud storage platform; more choices for splitting Windows on-screen; and the replication of relevant control panel functions in the new user interface, which reduces the need to switch to the desktop.

In other words, businesses considering an OS desktop upgrade - and that’s likely to be many, given Microsoft’s plans to discontinue support for Windows XP next year - should keep watching for further details.

Those with more definite plans, meanwhile, need to consider their deployment strategies carefully. While Silver and Kleynhans expect only minor changes to the Windows desktop, compatibility issues are likely to arise from moving between the IE 8 and IE 11 web browsers. “Organisations will need time to test critical applications and understand vendor support policies. In the future, Windows will likely include more updates like 8.1, perhaps on an annual basis,” they say.

As it stands, their recommendations to IT decision-makers is preliminary, they caution, and may change as Microsoft provides further details on Windows 8.1. But based on the information currently available, they offer the following advice:

      - If your business has considered Windows 8 only for touch-based devices, evaluate Windows 8.1 for broader deployment across the device estate.

      - If your business has been avoiding Windows 8, but usually prefer to adopt a new OS via a PC refresh project, consider deploying Windows 8.1 on newly purchased PCs, after you have completed the requisite testing - especially with IE 11.

      - If your business is engaged in early planning phases of Windows 8 projects, pilot on Windows 8 if it makes sense, but switch to Windows 8.1 beta as soon as possible. Plan to use Windows 8.1 in production environments.

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