Microsoft urged enterprises on Tuesday to adopt Windows 8, its upcoming OS for desktops, laptops and tablets which some industry experts believe faces an uphill battle for acceptance by IT professionals.
At a keynote speech at TechEd North America in Orlando, Microsoft officials outlined a series of reasons for enterprises to seriously consider upgrading to Windows 8, which is expected to be commercially available before the end of this year. About 10,000 IT pros are attending this year's conference.
However, analysts at Gartner, IDC and other IT research firms have expressed skepticism that IT departments will embark on wholesale Windows 8 upgrades, since many companies have just finished, or are in the midst of, upgrading to Windows 7 from Windows XP.
The new Windows 8 Metro interface, designed primarily for touch-based screens used in tablet devices, has also been criticized in pre-release versions as not being optimized for workplace productivity. Windows 8 will also feature a traditional Windows 7-like interface, but some testers have said that toggling between the two is inconvenient and clunky.
Still, it became clear on Tuesday that Microsoft will fight to bring corporate customers to the new OS. "Windows 8 is enterprise-ready by design," said Antoine Leblond, corporate vice president of Windows Web Services, at the start of his speech.
For the next 90 minutes, he and Linda Averett, director of program management for Windows, alternated on stage, demonstrating a variety of new and improved Windows 8 features for enterprises that they argued are essential.
Windows 8 is "a better Windows" than Windows 7, Leblond said.
Windows 7 has its roots in Windows 95, and as such was built for a world in which most devices were desktop PCs connected to a power outlet, but now mobility and battery life management are critical because laptops and tablets have become so popular, he said.
Along with this shift, touch-based screens have become ubiquitous and people are always connected to the Internet, so applications and data need to be constantly available from the cloud.
The Microsoft officials argued that the Metro user interface is intuitive and easy to use, whether with the touch-screen controls or with a mouse and keyboard, in tablets and laptops.
They showed a variety of the touch-screen "gestures" that are supported in the Metro interface, and how the tile icons that represent the different applications can be rearranged and grouped.
They also showed a variety of business applications that partners have built for the Metro interface -- including an SAP prototype application for sales forecasting -- saying that the look-and-feel of Metro applications is cleaner and generally superior, leading to a more productive user experience.
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