A multi-touch interface might not seem ideally suited for a corporate environment, but Windows 8 seamlessly blends the best of tablet-like direct interaction and traditional desktop applications. We can see why this radically different-looking operating system might raise a few eyebrows in the boardroom though.

For starters, Windows 8 doesn't look like a traditional business operating system. With its bright colours Metro touchscreen-enabled interface. it seems designed to appeal to kids. On the face of it, this departure from the windows and taskbars that we recognise seems to make the new OS less suited to business use than existing versions of Windows. Microsoft certainly intends to broaden the appeal of Windows with its new OS, but there's also plenty under the hood that is aimed specifically at the business user.

Although Windows 8 looks different, it can do anything you can already do in your existing version of Windows, be that a 32bit or 64bit environment. But it isn't just a desktop operating system - it is equally at home on a tablet PC or a dumb client with only a log in to a web portal for a front end, and it synchs well with Windows smartphones. It's a use-anywhere, the-same-experience-on-anything operating system.

Whenever you log in to Windows 8, you’re logging in to your own, personalised computer. Your apps, preferences and contacts are with you whenever your use Windows 8. This applies on your laptop, PC, tablet or Windows Phone.

A separate Windows 8 To Go app supplied with the OS allows you to use Windows 8’s features even on a PC that doesn’t have Windows 8 on it. The USB-based app acts as a portable operating system and even lets you use the business-critical applications installed on your office network from a remote location. Documents you’ve saved can be pulled down from your free SkyDrive online archive or other cloud-based backup drive, edited and automatically saved back to your secure web store.

You don't need to replace your existing Windows 7 computer or laptop in order to run Windows 8 – though you may want to invest in a touchscreen display to take advantage of the Metro interface.

The hardware you’re running now will comfortably run Windows 8 applications. It will work with the same connected devices too, so you won’t lose any networking capability or connectivity. You’ll also continue to be able to use your current programs, so there’s no productivity loss to worry about. In fact, Windows 8 is designed to fit better around the individual than any previous version of the operating system.

Since October 2011, there have been millions of installations of Windows 8 previews, which has allowed Microsoft to identify and iron out any hardware compatibilities. Reports suggest that they are rare. In any case, you get a detailed compatibility report before proceeding with the upgrade process. Once installed, setup takes a matter of minutes. The most critical items – phone numbers, email addresses and business contacts - are automatically imported and saved to your Windows Live or Exchange account.
Windows 8 will also offer the tempting possibility of a slick business environment on a lightweight tablet device – one on which you’ll be able to use the corporate applications on which you rely. This means you won’t need to lug about a hefty laptop just so you can attend meetings and give PowerPoint presentations.

Windows 8 also offers improved support for virtualised environments and secure ways of working such as running applications from within a sandbox. Corporate users will find enterprise-grade business security in the form of BitLocker hard drive encryption and Trusted Module Platform.

Getting around Metro takes a little getting used to, like anything new, but we’ve found using it surprisingly intuitive. We certainly don’t miss delving through folder after folder to find the item we need; with Windows 8 you can just scroll across and click to launch the item you want. There’s also less in the way of distraction as clicking away from one task in favour of another hides but doesn’t close it. When you want to return to that web page, spreadsheet or email, a click on its tile returns you to the point at which you left off.
Tiles of recently-used apps and screens are visible to the left, where they are easily called up. The ‘traditional’ Windows desktop, meanwhile, is always available from the bottom-right tile of the Metro Start screen. You can use keyboard and mouse for anything – but will probably eventually find the side-scrolling menu setup in Windows 8 best used with a fast-flicking finger.

No one would argue that Windows 8 is the same as the Windows that came before it – it’s not intended to be. With support for the latest tablet and smartphone platforms and uniformity across these as well as your PC and laptop, Windows 8 offers a more cohesive way of working. Security and management tools are included, while the Metro interface provides an immersive experience that only a touchscreen environment can offer. See also: Top 8 reasons to upgrade to Windows 8.

Visit: Windows 8 Advisor

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