The On Our Bikes guide to Windows 8 for small businesses

Strictly for illustration, not for a profile pic

My desktop

Windows 8 is here and still on a special introductory price that we didn’t see with Windows 7. There are all sorts of wizard devices that run Windows 8  and if you want to play with it and see what suits you than you have a huge choice.

I come from the angle of a small office-based business running certain specialist applications,. I do not have touch screen facilities in the office, and nor do most people who are not in art or design (but do correct me if I am wrong).

I have installed Windows 8 on a machine about five years old which had 3Gb memory and which was running XP, 2.7 GHz AMD LE 1640 processor and 250 GB drive, only 20% full. This XP machine has no unusual specialist applications.

The plus side

  • Windows 8 looks very pretty.
  • I think the tiles are fun (you can look elsewhere to see what it looks like)
  • There is something very satisfying about the desktop which feels modern, but then so does my android tablet.
  • The machine boots in 10 to 15 seconds as opposed to a couple of minutes to settle down in XP.
  • It shuts down in less than 10 seconds; about the same as my older machine running Ubuntu.
  • There is a lovely modern feel and you can whip into any program (or App as we are being trained to say) very quickly because…
  • …the old machine is much faster than it was under XP

The minus side

  • You can take your programs with you from Windows 7 but you cannot from Vista or XP. You would have to reinstall them. That would take a lot of time. You can only carry over your personal files.
  • A lot of office programs are not currently compatible with Windows 8, for example any version of QuickBooks below QB 2013, and even that might be trouble.
  • So you would have to buy a lot of new software if you wanted to upgrade any system to Windows 8.
  • Having reinstalled your programs from disk you would then have to get new license keys from the software providers like if you had bought a new hard disk.
  • The touch screen would suit the artistic among us but most designers will be using Mac anyway.
  • There is no start button. You can use the tiles to start a program but have to wave your mouse cursor / pointer in the corner of the screen to get tiles if you are in desktop mode which you will be most of the time.
  • There is more waving of the cursor on the other side of the screen to get to the settings or even to shut the machine down.

Windows 8 has revived my old XP machine brilliantly, but it wasn’t running any specialist applications. In terms of functionality Windows 8 without touch screen is no better (because it is the same) as Windows 7, so if you have Windows 7, stick with it.

Let’s not forget that more and more specialist applications run in the cloud, which might be less of an obstacle to installing Windows 8, but then the cloud offers the choice of many operating systems.

If you have any specialist applications on your Vista or XP machines, you might also have to stick with what you have. I have two machines running Vista. One desktop with QuickBooks and tax programs and all those other programs needing to be reinstalled will stay with Vista. I might change over my Vista laptop eventually but not any time soon.

I guess Microsoft are trying to please too many people across too many devices, many of which are tablets or phones. You cannot have something which is all things to all women and men, because somewhere you are going to fall short. Windows 8 does fall short in the typical office, but is worth a punt for an XP machine with a bog-standard set of applications at the introductory price.

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