Illustration of a Microsoft Surface RT Tablet

I suppose I’ve got to have an opinion on this, it seems to be the only thing I’m asked at the moment, have you installed and run Windows 8 yet? The answer is yes, I actually installed the Release Candidate version and hated it so much it was uninstalled and relegated to a VPC that I never really fired up.

I thought now it had hit production it would be much improved, I had read some positive reviews in PC Pro and BBC Click seemed to like it. As for me…

Well to paraphrase, the words of my favourite advert, schtop schtop, this OS is not ready yet! I installed on a fairly old, but not that old Dell OptiPlex business machine, dual core, 4GB of RAM, good graphics card, not too shabby, dual screens. It would be reasonable expect that this, as is the standard in many businesses that it was going to run without any third party drivers. Alas no, the ATI graphics card did not have an 8 driver nor did it look as if there would be any hope of one soon for this particular card.

Having poked around the new start screen and going back to the old desktop, spending much time looking for restart, looking for drivers and what have you. I just gave up with severe frustration and reinstalled Windows 7.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Windows Phone 7.5 and 8, I also quite like Microsoft’s new interface. However it’s simply not going to cut it in business, not on desktop machines. I may get a tablet with Windows 8 Pro on in the near future; I may even consider it as a Media Centre (yes, that decision to take that out of the product is INSANE) but it’s just not going to work for everyday business use – you’re going to bypass the new stuff, go straight to the old style desktop and realise it’s very annoying without a start menu.

Let’s also be totally clear, Windows 8 is just a marketing name, under the hood the version number that Windows will give you is Windows 6.2. As a reminder, Windows XP was 5.1 (Windows 2000 being 5.0) – Vista was 6.0, 7 was actually 6.1 and Windows 8 is really 6.2! Confused, yes you should be. Microsoft has really got themselves out of kilter with this. The reason they don’t tell you the little number anymore, is that’s the actual kernel version – the core of the operating system that does all the work.

After Vista bombed and caused so many problems, it was though better to have a complete new version number it was the 7th release of the product (minor and major releases included) so Windows 7 was the name, obviously 8 follows. However, Windows 7 and 8 are more like Vista than anyone would like to admit.

Vista was a ground-breaking product, with some very clever but poorly implemented ideas. 7 fixed the problems and was a fast and fluid operating system and will now on become the defacto replacement for XP in most businesses.

So what about poor Windows 8? Well this is where I think Microsoft may have pulled a master stroke of strategy, they know businesses aren’t going to adopt it, they need something for tablets quick to react to the threat of Apple and Android and they’ve got the power and knowledge of their existing operating system. The resulting Windows 8 with the Modern UI is an obvious position to get to.

This gives them breathing space, something that works perfectly on tablets and touch enabled laptops, gives the market time to adopt touchscreen laptops and convertible laptops and for those to filter into businesses. The next product, well the danger is that it is ground breaking and becomes another Vista but more likely the next version of Windows will be the next ‘Windows 2000’ different and solid with an XP again to look forward to after that!

Do you buy one? Well the specification for Microsoft’s own Surface Pro has just come out, with half the battery life of the Surface RT – a bit frustrating that they didn’t wait for the newer Intel processors with less power requirements. That’s just enough annoyed me enough to hang fire and see what other vendors come up with now. Most IT Pro’s like me will want a Windows 8 Pro device – we will want to use the touch interface 80% of the time, but when it comes to having to deal with something for work or a client and it’s the device you have in your hand, then you’ll want to switch into classic desktop mode and get on with it.

So in summary, I can’t see myself recommending Windows 8 to businesses, not in the short term – the device compatibility issues will cause more problems than it’s worth. I can imagine most IT Pro’s will have a Windows 8 Pro device of some sort or other but the main marker for Microsoft with this one is the consumer tablet market. I’m holding out a lot of home for the next version of Windows but secretly wish Balmer was gone and Gates was back.