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Windows 8.1 Could Become What Windows 8 Should Have Been

Microsoft recently announced some features of the new user experience included in Windows 8.1 including Start button functions, the ability to boot to the desktop and Internet Explorer (IE) 11. Microsoft has not yet disclosed other features, but said that Windows 8.1 will be a free update from Windows 8. Windows 8.1 is expected to ship in time for holiday device sales.

Michael Silver and Steve Kleynhans, vice presidents in Gartner’s client computing team, provide analysis and recommendations on what organizations should look for in the Windows 8.1 update in today’s analyst guest post:

After Microsoft unveiled Windows 8, the newly introduced user experience was criticized.  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 Windows 8.1 features could quiet most of its detractors.

Microsoft has not released many other details, but Gartner expects only minor changes to the Windows desktop, which would ensure high levels of compatibility with legacy Win32 desktop applications. More compatibility issues will likely arise from moving from IE 8 to IE 11 than with Win32 applications that run on Windows 7, but organizations will need to allocate 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.

Recommendations

Gartner’s advice for organizations is preliminary and may change as Microsoft provides further details on Windows 8.1. Based on the information currently available:

  • If you have considered Windows 8 only for touch-based devices, evaluate Windows 8.1 for broader deployment
  • If you have been avoiding Windows 8, but usually prefer to adopt a new OS via PC refresh, consider deploying Windows 8.1 on newly purchased PCs after you have completed the requisite testing – especially with IE 11.
  • If you are 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 for production deployments.

Additional information on what organizations can expect in Windows 8.1 can be found in the Gartner report “Windows 8.1 Could Become What Windows 8.0 Should Have Been.” The report can be found on Gartner’s website at http://www.gartner.com/resId=2501315.

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