Microsoft's latest desktop reboot is out in the wild, and lots of people are getting their hands on it and using it today. Is it time to consider moving to Windows 8? Absolutely.
That doesn't mean that Windows 8 should be your main desktop later this afternoon, but it's important to consider a move to Windows 8 early. It is a popular approach to hold off on new software updates until systems have been in production use for months or years, and there is value to this concept - allowing others to vet, test and uncover issues while you sit back and remain stable on existing well-known software. But there is a reason why so many businesses forge ahead, and that is because using software early delivers the latest features and advantages as early as possible.
Unlike software coming from a small company with limited support and testing resources, Microsoft's software is incredibly well tested both internally and by the community before it is available to end users. Few applications are more heavily vetted prior to release. That doesn't mean that release day rollouts are wise, but beginning to evaluate new products early can have major advantages both because of the newest features are available to those that decide to use the new product but also because it allows the most time to find an alternative for those who decide to migrate away. Early decision-making is important to success.
The reality is that while many businesses should take the time to evaluate Windows 8 versus alternative solutions - a practice that should be done regularly regardless of new features or changes to environments to ensure that traditional choices remain the best current choices, nearly all businesses will be migrating to Windows 8 and remaining in the Microsoft ecosystem for quite some time to come.
This means that many companies should be looking to make the jump to Windows 8 sooner, rather than later. Windows 8, while seemingly shockingly new and innovative, is based on the same Windows NT 6 family kernel that began with Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, continued through the Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 era, and is shared with Windows Server 2012. This kernel is mature and robust. The vast majority of the code and features in Windows 8, user interface aside, are well tested and extremely stable. Windows 8 uses fewer resources, on the same hardware, as Windows 7 which, in turn, was lighter and faster than Windows Vista. The sooner that you move to Windows 8, the sooner you get more performance out of your existing hardware and the longer you have to leverage that advantage.
Windows 8 brings some big changes that will impact the end users, without a doubt. These changes can be, in some cases, quite disruptive, but with proper training and preparation users should return to regular productivity levels in a reasonable amount of time. Often they will actually be more productive once they are comfortable with the new environment and features.
If you are an organization destined to be running Windows 8, or its successors, "someday" then most likely you should be running Windows 8 today to start leveraging its advantages as soon as possible so that you can use them as long as possible. If Windows truly is the platform that is best for you, you should embrace it and accept the "hit" of transitioning to Windows 8 now. Swallow that bitter pill and be done with it. And for the next several years while your competitors are whining about having to move to Windows 8 "someday," you will be happily leveraging your older hardware, your more efficient workflows and your more modern systems day after day, reaping the benefits of an early migration to a stable platform.
It is common for IT departments to take a "wait and see" approach to new system migrations. I am convinced that this is created by a culture of IT staff who hope to leave their current positions before a migration occurs and that they will land a new position elsewhere that has already migrated. Or perhaps companies hope to avoid the migration completely awaiting a later version of Windows. This second argument does carry some weight as many shops skip operating system revisions, but doing so often brings extra overhead in security issues, application compatibility effort and other issues.
Windows 8 is unique in that it is a third release of the Windows NT 6 kernel series so it comes as a rare, very stable late release member of its family (the NT 6 family is sometimes called the "Vista Family.") Windows 8's NT designation is 6.2. The only other Microsoft NT operating system to reach the x.2 status was when Windows XP SP3 and Server 2003 R2 released with the NT 5.2 kernel - a part of the Windows 2000 family. Late release kernels are important because they tend to deliver the utmost in reliability and represent an excellent point in which to invest in a very long-term deployment strategy that can last for nearly a decade.
Whether you agree with Microsoft's unified platform vision or the radical approach to user interface included in Windows 8, you need to decide if you are continuing down the path of the Microsoft platform. I so, embrace it rather than fight it, and begin evaluating if a move to Windows 8 and, by extension, Windows Server 2012 are right for you. Don't avoid Windows 8; it isn't going to go away. For most shops, making the decision to move today will sow the seeds for long-term benefits that you can reap for years and years to come.