Windows 7 vs. Windows 8 – Choosing a Replacement for XP

If you haven’t heard by now, Microsoft is set to end support for the wildly popular XP operating system on April 8th. We’ve been talking about this end-of-life date here at Lieberman Technologies for a while now, and we’ve helped a number of businesses make the transition to a new operating system.

If you’ve been putting off making the switch to a new operating system, your time is quickly running out for making a decision. Many companies aren’t sure what to do. Your options boil down to two choices: Windows 7 or Windows 8. You may have noticed that most new computers in the big box stores come preloaded with Windows 8, and you may have had the opportunity to navigate the new interface yourself.

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Comparing Windows 7 and Windows 8

Windows 7 launched in late 2009, making this operating system nearly five years old; by comparison, Windows 8 launched in late 2012. In operating system standards, this is still fairly new. While Windows 7 has had the advantage of updates and refinements in the past five years, Windows 8 is still in the early stages of this process. Most businesses are reluctant to migrate to an operating system that is still fairly new, and we concur with this philosophy. Newer operating systems often still have issues to address, including application compatibility and lack of device driver support.

Consider also the fact that there is a huge difference in the design and layout of Windows 8 as compared to everything that has come before it. There is a steep curve in learning how to navigate this operating system, and most businesses do not have the time to dedicate to re-learning how to use it, at the expense of productivity. Clearly, Windows 8  has a way to go before it becomes the go-to for business.

Windows 7 isn’t as big of a leap for businesses still using XP. Compatibility with existing applications, such as software written specifically for your business, will likely be easier to achieve with 7, especially with a feature built into Windows 7 called “XP Mode.” XP Mode will allow you to run an application that is not compatible with Windows 7 in a virtual Windows XP environment. Also key is the navigation of 7, which is quite similar to that of XP, albeit with some distinct upgrades. Asking your employees to make this sort of transition will be less painful than starting from scratch learning a completely new system. For these reasons, the majority of businesses have opted for Windows 7, which is the operating system that we currently are recommending for this transition.

Currently, Windows 7 is set to lose mainstream support in January 2015, with extended support ending in 2020. Don’t let the loss of mainstream support frighten you; XP’s mainstream support ended in 2009 and the world has coped quite well with the extended support that’s been offered in the interim.

The future for Windows 8

Windows 8 was designed with the goal of having a common operating system look and feel across all devices, especially mobile devices like phones and tablets.  As more and more businesses rely on tablets and phones to do business, they can seamlessly move from their mobile devices to their laptop or desktop and not have to worry about a different operating system look and feel.  So, there are some areas that Windows 8 can fit into businesses and currently that includes tablets like Windows Surface. One of the big features for Windows 8 is touch screen functionality.  If you are purchasing a desktop or laptop and want this functionality, you must be careful to choose a monitor that is Windows 8 touch compatible.

Windows 8 still has some issues to overcome before it’s widely adopted by business. The learning curve that comes with using a radically different operating system will likely be addressed by individuals learning to use the system outside company walls. As more and more people become accustomed to the Windows 8 interface, companies will begin to adopt it for business use. And it seems that computer manufacturers are preparing for this event, as well. Many manufacturers, such as Dell, offer Windows 8-ready PCs that include Windows 8 licenses but come downgraded to Windows 7 installed.   When the time comes to switch over to Windows 8, many companies will be able to make the switch without a significant new investment in hardware.

Another sign that business isn’t quite ready for Windows 8, and vice-versa? This article from the New Yorker. If the man who founded the company (Microsoft) has trouble installing it, it might not be ready for prime time.

Have you moved away from XP? Which system did you choose – 7 or 8?