Information Services Recommends Community Members Wait to Migrate to Windows 8

Information Technology Services is making Windows 8 Enterprise available for early adopters, but strongly recommends delaying the transition.

Information Technology Services recommends that members of the Northeastern community wait to move to Windows 8. As is the case with most new operating system releases, IS anticipates that there will be incompatibilities with current software offerings and devices in the initial release discovered during testing. We will continue to update the community as testing progresses.

However, Information Technology Services is making Windows 8 Enterprise available to early adopters (faculty and staff only) for installation on University owned computers with very limited support through the ITS Service Desk.

The availability of Windows 8 has been accompanied by the release of new touchscreen tablets by many vendors. Note that most of these tablets, including the Microsoft Surface currently available in stores, are based on the ARM processor, and run Windows RT, a version of Windows 8 specific to mobile devices. They support ARM-compatible applications (also called Metro apps) that can be obtained from the Windows Store, but will not run desktop applications that run on your work computer.

Vendors will develop touchscreen tablets based on the Intel x86 platform over the next few months, including a Microsoft Surface based on the Intel x86 expected to become available in early 2013. These tablets will support desktop applications, as will many existing convertible laptops such as the Dell Latitude XT3.

IS Support Plan
Information Technology Services will phase in support for Windows 8 Enterprise in the coming months. Beginning 12/1/2012, Information Technology Services is offering support for:

  • Download of Windows 8 Enterprise media by early adopters (faculty and staff only) for use on university owned computers;
  • Configuring network connections (both wireless and wired); and
  • Activating Windows 8 Enterprise licenses on the campus network

As we complete additional testing and as additional compatible software becomes available, IS will increase our support for Windows 8 and incorporate it into our standard configuration. IS will be developing managed Windows 8 offerings and testing all supported applications for release later this spring, for both computer labs and faculty/staff use. Please note that application vendors usually require 90 to 120 days to validate and update their software for a new operating system, but some vendors might not support Windows 8 for longer.

We are working with our University preferred hardware vendor, Dell, to offer supported Dell computers running Windows 8 later this spring. In addition, Information Technology Services is also exploring Windows RT and touchscreen tablets based on this operating system, and will provide updates regarding recommended devices. IS is committed to supporting previous versions of Microsoft operating systems, including Windows 7 Enterprise, for the foreseeable future.

More About Windows 8
Windows 8 was released by Microsoft with the intention of creating a consistent interface between laptops, desktops, and tablets. The biggest change in Windows 8 is the updated User Interface (UI). Microsoft has introduced its new Metro screen, which has replaced its ‘Start’ menu. The Metro screen provides colorful, easy-to-arrange tiles on the home screen. These tiles can display live data, such as weather and new email messages, as well as provide shortcuts to all of your favorite applications. The new interface can take some getting used to, since it is no longer about clicking the ‘Start’ menu to access or do anything. As an example, the search functionality has become seamless in Windows 8; there is no need to find a search box. Looking for email? Just type ‘e’ and a list of relevant applications appear on the screen. Much of the Windows 8 functionality works this way, and by tapping/swiping/clicking on tiles you can open applications and access settings and options. Some early adopters have commented that this interface can be challenging to use with a non-tablet device.

The version of Windows 8 that runs on touchscreen tablets is called Windows RT. While it uses the same Metro interface as Windows 8 (the x86 version), Windows RT supports ARM compatible applications that are typically obtained from the Windows Store, and cannot run the same programs you use on your desktop or laptop. At last check, there were over 4,500 apps in the Windows Store, and the number is expected to increase rapidly over the next few weeks. RT comes with Office RT, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, and syncs documents over SkyDrive.

To learn more about Windows 8, IS recommends you read the following reviews, video overview or take Windows 8 for a test drive at one of the new Microsoft stores (nearby at the Prudential Center mall).

Obtaining Windows 8
Early adopters wishing to install Windows 8 on their University-owned computer, may contact the ITS Service Desk at x4357 or help@neu.edu to request the software, beginning 12/1/2012.

Getting help
For assistance, contact the ITS Service Desk at x4357 or at help@neu.edu, or submit a request using myHelp.

Posted in 2012 December IS Newsletter and tagged , .