Windows 8 vs. Windows 8.1

When your organization migrates from earlier versions of Windows to more recent versions of Windows, a choice presents itself. While it seems like a small choice, choosing between Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 is, in fact, a major choice that defines the organization’s view on technology.

While scrolling through the description of the recently released Windows 8.1 Update, the following text grabbed my attention:

All future security and non-security updates for Windows RT 8.1, Windows 8.1, and Windows Server 2012 R2 require this update to be installed. We recommend that you install this update on your Windows RT 8.1, Windows 8.1, or Windows Server 2012 R2–based computer in order to receive continued future updates.

In my opinion, this text separates the men from the boys, the early adopters from the early majority.

Here’s why.

Technology adoption ^

When I look at the technology adoption lifecycle, a common sociological model that describes the adoption or acceptance of a new product or innovation, going forward, I can clearly see the Windows releases lined up with the defined adopter groups on Roger’s Bell Curve:

Diffusion of Innovation Curve

Diffusion of Innovation Curve

  • The Laggards are using Windows XP (16%).
  • The Late Majority has standardized on Windows 7 (34%).
  • The Early Majority has standardized on Windows 8 (34%).
  • The Early Adopters are now moving to Windows 8.1 Update (13.5%).
  • The Innovators are part of Microsoft’s Technology Adoption Program, Rapid Deployment Program, or other preview program and will make the jump to Windows vNext the day it becomes available (2.5%).

Of course, these percentages do not represent the current situation of Windows adoption by these groups. Going forward, though, this might become the reality. In fact, I think this might become reality within the next year and a half, especially since Windows 7 will transition from mainstream support into extended support as of January 13, 2015.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing.

What kind of organization are you? ^

Even today, we can see that the majority of organizations moving. Both Net Applications and StatCounter published operating system market shares for June 2014 (based on Internet usage). According to these numbers, Windows 7 now holds half the market worldwide. Windows 8 and beyond can be found on 1 in 8 computers used for browsing. That’s roughly half of computers running Windows XP that are expected to be migrated soon (or geographically located in the People’s Republic of China).

When your organization is looking to migrate to Windows 8, an important choice needs to be made:

  • Will you be deploying Windows 8, or
  • Will you be deploying Windows 8.1 and all its updates within one patch cycle?

Deploying Windows 8.1 (and updates) ^

When you deploy Windows 8.1, you will benefit from all the goodness Windows 8 brings, plus all the features from Windows 8.1 and its updates.

Windows 8.1 features

As you deploy Windows 8.1 instead of Windows 8, you’ll have access to these Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) features, Graphical User Interface (GUI) tweaks, and other useful features for road warriors and presentation junkies:

Note:
Work Folders and Internet Explorer 11 are also available for Windows 7.

Windows 8.1 Update 1 features

As you need to deploy the spring update to continue to benefit from security and non-security updates for Windows 8.1 after June 30, 2014, you’ll also gain these features:

All this goodness comes at a price, though. As a rule of thumb, you will need to deploy updates to Windows 8.1 within six weeks (or within one patch cycle) to continue to benefit from security and non-security updates.

Going this route, your organization needs a reliable update strategy (and systems). To prevent systems from missing important updates, an update solution such as Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) or System Center Configuration Manager (ConfigMgr) is recommended. When your organization doesn’t have a reliable update strategy (and systems), deploying Windows 8 instead of Windows 8.1 is the logical choice.

Deploying Windows 8 ^

When you choose to deploy Windows 8, you’ll make sure your organization is ready for modern apps and will continue to benefit from support up to January 12, 2016.

Although Windows 8.1 offers various new features, you should also note that features were deprecated. When your organization relies on Work Offline in Internet Explorer, or if you have painstakingly convinced your colleagues that they no longer need the Start Button, Windows 8 is the right choice for your organization.

Also, for organizations that mainly use traditional desktops and non-touch devices or that are not interested in Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), Windows 8.1 doesn’t make much sense, feature-wise. Again, Windows 8 is the right choice.

Making the choice ^

Deploying Windows 8.1 in your organization means your organization is “all-in.” You’re betting your organization’s success on new form factors (with Windows installed), on Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). You’ve invested heavily on making sure devices are kept in sync and up to date, and you’re comfortable with modern apps being updated automatically.

If not, Windows 8 is the logical choice for your organization.

Which organization are you?

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