The Great Transition: Windows XP to Windows 8

In just under two years, the venerable Windows XP operating system will reach end of support on April 8, 2014. What should schools do to get ready for what’s next?

For over ten years, schools and universities around the world have been using Windows XP as the core operating system for the business of learning. Now, schools are grappling with multiple consumer trends impacting their future direction for teaching, learning, and instructional technology for professional faculty, for students, and the business administrators.

A quick revisitation of the most pertinent trends are appropriate:

  • The world has gone mobile: Consumers are purchasing mobile broadband devices at an exponential rate.  As more individuals seek boundless computing and media consumption options, this trend line will be consistent well into the future.
  • Electronic texts is becoming mainstream: You cannot have an education conversation today without some time spent on ETEXTBOOKS.  While ETEXT is not new; we have reached a point where the screen resolution rivals that of traditional printed books.  Additionally, the cloud economy is providing an opportunity to rethink warehousing and distribution for students.
  • Broadband options abound: By the time we learn which telco carrier has the fastest 4G LTE network, the world will need to get ready for 4G LTE Advanced and Super Wi-fi. Suffice it to say, mobile broadband options are getting faster and more robust for high fidelity services.
  • We are all social butterflies to some degree: The wisdom of crowds is influencing how we work, collaborate, and make decisions. This is driving all apps, services, and devices to be inherently social.

Against this backdrop, Windows XP will reach its end-of-support; Windows Vista enters extended support; Windows 7 is getting its full stride; and Windows 8 begins its march to global debut.

So, the most frequently asked question is, “Do I wait for Windows 8 or continue with our Windows 7 deployments?”  The second most frequently asked question is, “Do I retire Windows XP and move to adopt a mobile only platform?”

I will start with the first question.  The answer is really simple, if you are on track for a Windows 7 deployment–continue the deployment as planned.  There are a lot of great resources for migrating the Windows Client to current Windows operating systems on Springboard Series on TechNet.

The good news for Windows 7 deployment planners is that all of the work being done for Windows 7 will pay forward to Windows 8 in the future.  None of the effort or investments will be lost.

The second question is more interesting–a mobile only OS. There are a lot of options on the market today.  It seems that every ten years, there are a lot choices for operating systems and mobile devices.  So what is different now.

Windows 8 is Windows reimagined.  Part of that reimagination of Windows is making the operating system even more mobile by design.  While Windows 7 is a great mobile OS today, Windows 8 takes what is great about Windows 7 and makes it even better.  This is not news.  The news was made at CES 2011 when Steven Sinofsky announced that Windows 8 would support system-on-a-chip devices.  You can read my earlier remarks here.

Because of SOC architecture and support for ARM devices, Windows provides the first no-compromise operating system that is secure, robust, cloud-optimized, and inherently mobile.

So, should you wait for Windows 8? The answer to that question is highly dependent on the scenarios that you are seeking to enable.  Windows 8 offers some exciting scenarios that I will talk about in June when the Windows 8 Release Preview is available. In the meantime, visit the Building Windows 8 blog for details.

If you are not familiar with what comes next in Windows 8, I highly encourage you to read the Windows 8 Consumer Preview product guides. There are three product guides for consumers, developers, and business.  I really love the developer product guide because it gives a greater sense of what is possible in Windows 8. This is the best starting point to determine whether these new scenarios would be more beneficial if you wait or start a Windows 7 deployment plan now.

The Windows 8 Consumer Preview is still available.  In early June 2012, the Windows 8 Release Preview will become available. The Release Preview is the near final preview before Windows 8 General Availability–which of course is at a date to be determined.

While the Windows 8 GA date is still a topic of speculation, the April 8, 2014 date for Windows XP End-of-Support is not.  In a nutshell, fall 2012 is the last full school year for Windows XP in education.  This summer is the time to start planning your Windows migration in earnest.

Questions for you:

What summer projects does your school or university have planned to get ready for Back-to-School 2012?


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