Being hijacked via the Metro – An Unwanted Windows 8 Journey

Recently, misfortune struck when a key system failed at a rather inopportune moment.  Fortunately, a replacement was quickly obtained, and I thought it would be up and running quickly.  My hope the matter would be resolved quickly faded when I turned on the machine.  To my disappointment, Windows 8 was pre-installed, and that is when the fun began.

My first reaction was one of minor annoyance, but I comforted myself thinking I would learn a few new things during the restoration process.  I certainly learned a lot, far more than I wanted or expected.  The key lesson for me: avoid Windows 8 unless you have a lot of time to invest.

The degree of change, particularly with the new interface, Metro (now called "modern UI style") is substantial.  Personally, I did not find the interface intuitive, and it seemed poorly structured.  This caused me to spend a lot of time searching online for guidance to accomplish even the most basic tasks.  Moreover, in an effort to unclutter the interface, Microsoft has removed features they deemed were infrequently used. I wish I could have reached through the internet and magically dope-slap the design team back in Redmond.

The simple task of configuring both wired and wireless network connections turned into a royal pain.  Generally this task takes me less than 10 minutes with Windows XP, Vista, or 7. Adding multiple locations is only a minor additional effort.   Using Windows 8, it took at least 3 times longer, and I am still having some issues.

Even with the experience gained during restoration, basic processes seen much more complex and less straightforward than before.  More than once during this experience I wondered how much harder it would be to “throw in the towel” and buy a Mac.  I still might; time will tell.

All this before I mention the new Start screen – the metro interface.  Where or where did the Start menu go (you can get it back with add-ons)? The new Start screen seems is missing in action.  One of objectives for Windows 8 is to provide a unified, touch enabled, interface across platforms.  A noble goal to be sure, but I suspect it might end up being substandard on all devices.  I am not ready to turn in my Apple iPad as of yet.

With experience, I became “functional” using Windows 8.  However, I still find it stressful.  There are some positive aspects of the interface, and I am sure more will follow.  The system is young and with Microsoft’s substantial backing it will mature quickly.

For Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and other key IT Leaders, adopting Windows 8 will be a major undertaking.  Beyond all the typical tasks associated with moving to another operating system (client or server), Windows 8 will present additional challenges for both users and IT staff alike.  Much of the accumulated knowledge, directions, procedures, and training material are obsolete.  Help desk personnel will require additional training and resources to support the system.  The change is far more significant that the Windows XP -> Vista -> Windows 7 migration path or combination thereof.

In today’s world of BYOD, Windows 8 is a reality organizations are being forced to deal with on an increasing basis.  Irrespective of BYOD policies, organizations will need to support and accommodate Windows 8.

Windows 8 does have some intrinsic features IT organizations will appreciate.  The concept of a “common” operating system across platforms has the potential to provide many benefits:  simplified administration, better security reduced training, and more.   Even noting these benefits, the cost of change will be significant.  It is going to be a difficult business case for most IT organizations to make, especially in the near term.

So what is a CIO to do?  My recommendation is to take steps to ensure their organizations are building Windows 8 skills and start thinking about migration planning.  The only given here is that change is inevitable.  Take some aspirin and hold-on, it will be an exciting ride via the Metro!  With planning, you should be able to direct the ride and arrive as planned.

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