Windows 8 Vs Resistant Developers (Part 2)

Fear of Change in Windows 8 is a Mistake to Which We Should Not Succumb

Following up Windows 8 Vs Developer Resistance Part 1, let’s talk about the biggest obstacle there is to positive change in the world: Fear.

As IT Professionals, it’s our job to understand and support the users who work to make the business profitable. Within our field, it’s critically important to recognize and embrace a very simple yet inescapable fact: technology changes, and it does so rapidly. It is both unrealistic and unreasonable to expect you’ll be doing exactly the same thing 20 years into your career that you were at the start. The changes in my 16 years alone are pretty mind blowing.  I trained on DOSWindows 3.11 and Novell Netware, with a little time spent as a Windows 95 beta tester–and all of those are gone. Cell phones hardly existed at all back then, to say nothing of smartphones or tablets. Read on past the break as we look at where we’ve come from and where we’re going!

I can recall discussions with coworkers regarding the Pocket PC when they came out. I remember when internet connected cell phones were just rumors, and preposterous ones at that. A common theme in those days was that the internet connected cell phone would “never take off,” because they “had no business purpose.” It was really, really tough in those days to see why anyone would want the internet on a phone. Yet, in 2012 we live in a world where businesses have adopted smartphones en mass, and internet connected portable devices are quickly becoming the defacto standard. That way of thinking hasn’t disappeared–I can remember people in 2010, when the iPad came out, talking about how it had “no place in business” and would “never be adopted by the enterprise.” But back here in 2012, tablets like the iPad (and let’s face it, lead mostly by the iPad) are the fastest growing segment and enterprises are experimenting to see where it can fit into their workflow.

Where Does Windows 8 Fit?

There’s little doubt that Windows 8 is a gamble for Microsoft. The new UI alone tosses essentially 30+ years of conventional user interface thinking out the window in favor of  brand new paradigm. The potential for this gamble to backfire is enormous. But the other side of that risk is the potential for a tremendous payoff, and Microsoft is in a better position than just about anyone has ever been to make such a gamble pay off. If, as promised, Microsoft builds Windows 8 to do everything the iPad can do and more–which even at this early stage appears to be “in the bag,”–and they make it easy to manage and integrate from an IT infrastructure point of view, they’ll have an advantage. Apple, Android, Blackberry and any other tablet competitor you can name all require extra software and effort to provision, maintain and manage their devices; Microsoft’s infrastructure is already built in. More importantly, as developers shift toward programming to the new API’s (HTML5, Javascript, WinRT), we’ll see a kind of application compatibility we haven’t seen before as developers will be easily able to port their software to both legacy x86/x64 hardware and to the new low power ARM hardware.

As a long time industry veteran, I recognize that a lot of companies will stubbornly resist adopting the Windows 8 design paradigm. I’ve seen it before; I watched companies refuse to support Windows XP, not wanting to deal with its “new” UI (which was really just the old UI with new paint) or the shift in support skills required to manage it. I’ve worked at companies who refused to support Ethernet faster than 10Mb, to say nothing of WiFi. And in turn, I’ve watched many of those companies flounder and go out of business. Others grudgingly accepted the new way of doing things, opened their wallets and imaginations, and flourished as a result. I’ve worked with companies who refused to build their software for compatibility with newer versions (a common theme remains that some vendors don’t want to build software that can work without administrative privileges, which in my experience is an annoyance and a mistake), only to watch them founder, reverse course and succeed. The pattern is quite common.

Rest assured, if your company doesn’t adapt, you’ll wind up looking for a new job. Windows remains roughly 93% of the world’s OS market after Apple’s meteoric rise to success. Even Vista, which was unilaterally (and deservedly) panned for its bloat, sold hundreds of millions of copies. There are more Vista PC’s out there than there are Macs on the planet, counting every Mac ever sold. While countless managers and coworkers may not yet see what there is to be gained from the new models of touch and voice, that will change in time.

The innovators of the industry will see things the rest of us don’t, develop products that amaze consumers and business people alike, and the times will change again. If your company doesn’t change along with the times, know that your competitors will. If they can deliver a new, compelling product that leverages new hardware and operating systems, your customers will become their customers. Managers may talk a big talk, but nobody with any business sense walks away from a market share of 93%. That’d just be silly. When you hear managers and programmers exclaim that “We’ll just stop supporting Windows,” you’re hearing the emptiest threat ever made.

Be sure to check out the third and final part of this article!

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