Will you upgrade to Windows 8?

by Frank 12. February 2012 13:09

This is the question that keeps Microsoft executives awake at night and gnawing at their fingernails.

Will home users, corporates and government agencies rush in to upgrade their desktops to Windows 8? I for one don’t think so and this is why I don’t think so.

The Vista debacle is still fresh in every CIO’s mind and I have not spoken to anyone who is planning to upgrade to Windows 8 in 2012 or even 2013. Most of my customers are still using XP and planning to upgrade to Windows 7.

Microsoft released Vista two years before it was ready and in doing so it inflicted a huge cost and productivity burden on its customers. Those same customers have long memories.

This isn’t a debate about whether Metro is a ‘good’ UI or whether or not Windows 8 should have a start button or whether or not the ARM version should have/will have the option of switching to the classical UI. That particular debate is for the techies and bloggers, not business owners and executives. For serious people this is a debate about value, cost and risk avoidance.

  • What is the value proposition of Windows 8? What are the compelling reasons for upgrading to Windows 8? What are the benefits of Windows 8? What effect will Windows 8 have on the bottom line? How will the CIO compose a cohesive business case to convince the board to allocate scarce funds to a Windows 8 rollout?
  • What will it cost to purchase Windows 8? What will it cost to upgrade all desktops to Windows 8? What will the cost be of lost productivity as your users grapple with the changes and differences? What will it cost to retrain your users?
  • Will the initial Windows 8 experience be a repeat of the Vista experience? What is the risk of this happening? What is the risk of some of your current devices not working with Windows 8? What is the risk of some of your current applications not working with Windows 8? What is the risk that you will have to upgrade or replace some of your PCs? What is the risk that your will have to roll back to Windows 7 from Windows 8 as many customers had to roll back from Vista to XP?

Value Proposition

As a business owner I don’t believe Windows 8 has a compelling value proposition. I don’t see any reason to upgrade from Windows 7. Windows 7 works fine and I will follow the old but wise maxim, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”


In my business, if I add up all the potential costs including manpower and retraining and lost productivity I come up with a minimum of $1,000 per desktop to upgrade to Windows 8 and that doesn’t include any hardware upgrades that may be required. And this cost assumes that Windows 8 is not a Vista and that all my current devices and application programs (like accounting, CRM and payroll) continue to work fine. The absolute worst case would be $2,000 a desktop if my assumptions are incorrect.


There is no reason to accept any risk. I will be recommending to my customers that they stick with Windows 7 and wait at least two or three years until Windows 8 has gobbled up a couple of service packs and proven itself.

Maybe Microsoft hasn’t noticed but most of the world is still in recession and every one of my customers, private and government alike, is still trying to cut costs and do more with less. I don’t know where Microsoft thinks the money is coming from to fund a Windows 8 upgrade.

From my perspective as a long-term Microsoft .NET application software developer I have decided not to redevelop my Windows applications for Windows 8 because of the huge amount of retraining, effort and money required to do so. I have been on the Microsoft treadmill for 28 years and have dutifully upgraded, redesigned and redeveloped my applications for each new release of Windows over that time. This time I do not believe the effort and cost is either justified or required. Instead, I am concentrating on converting all my application client functionality to both web clients (to run in a browser) and mobile clients (supporting smartphones and tablets). There will be some inevitable tweaking to do for Windows 8 but for the most part my new RecFind 6 clients won’t care if the user is running Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8, Linux, Apple OS, iOS or Android.

I actually can’t think of any good reason to redevelop for Windows 8 and have to believe that there will be lots of developers like me that will go the web client and mobile client route instead of spending scarce R&D funds and important developer time just to comply with Microsoft’s latest idea of how desktop applications should look and work. I already have enough trouble keeping up with the rapid changes in Android thank you.

It is every software developer’s dream to have just a single set of source code and to support multiple platforms with the same source. Unfortunately, this has never been possible but I still have to manage costs by minimizing the number of code variations I have to support. The advantage of a web client is that it is largely compatible with most operating systems and browsers and I can build and maintain my web client with a single set of source code albeit with a number of “ifs” to cater for variations in browsers and operating systems. I need separate source code for Both Android and iOS for my ‘native mode’ mobile apps so I end up supporting three development environments, browser, Android and iOS. This is fine because my customers are demanding web clients and mobile clients so I know that my investment in these three environments will pay off. No customer has yet asked for a Windows 8 compatible/certified RecFind 6 client but it is early times yet.

My applications (all based on RecFind 6) are in the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) sector and are designed for the records management, document management, document imaging and business process management sectors. As such we could best describe RecFind 6 as an information management solution and luckily for us this is an ideal application for the three environments we now support, browsers (web clients), Android and iOS (mobile clients).

My customers are also happy to use my products in these three environments so I have absolutely no compelling reason to redesign and rewrite RecFind 6 for Windows 8. My browser clients will run under Windows XP, 7 and 8 so there is absolutely no need for me to build a ‘native’ Windows 8 RecFind 6 client. Hopefully, my current Windows 7 RecFind 6 client will run with only minor tweaks under the Windows 8 ‘classical’ desktop so that my clients that still want to run my ‘fat’ client can still do so. However, there will be no need to do so because my RecFind 6 web client will be faster and easier to install and maintain.

What if a majority of software developers think like me and Microsoft ends up with a new desktop platform and very few ‘native’ applications, especially designed and written for Windows 8? Customers buy Windows to run applications, to do work. If Windows 8 doesn’t have the applications they need they will not bother with it.

Microsoft has thousands of very, very clever people and a marketing budget I can only dream of so we should never write them off. They proved they can get it very wrong with Vista and they have also proved they can get it very right with Windows 7. Fingers crossed that they again get it very right with Windows 8. But, they are taking a very, very big chance and with most of the western world still in recession they have not chosen an exactly auspicious time to launch Windows 8.

To reiterate, and for all the reasons espoused above, I do not see Windows 8 being the success Microsoft is hoping for.

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