Make the Right Windows 8/RT Choice

There’s been a lot of talk of how commercially disappointing Windows 8 has been because it didn’t cause a big uptick in PC sales. And yet, to focus on that aspect would be disaster for anyone with an information systems degree who works in a corporate IT shop.

According to Microsoft, it has sold 60 million Windows 8 licenses and said that the operating system is on par with adoption of Windows 7. But with Windows 8 comes Windows RT, a separate mobile version. Here are some tips to sorting through the differences and getting squared away in a business environment.

Hardware differences Windows 8 and RT differ by the hardware they use. A Windows 8 device is a traditional x86/x64-based computer and the software comes in 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Although Windows 8 uses memory more efficiently than previous versions of Windows, you will want to keep the same level of memory as before, giving users a bit of a speed boost Windows RT was designed to run on ARM-based mobile devices. They have much lower power consumption and, as a result, longer battery life. But that means they also do not have the same horsepower as a full Windows 8 PC, or even a laptop or notebook. Things get confusing because there are convertible form factors, offering both tablet and notebook capabilities, as well as Ultrabooks that offer more computing power but run Windows 8 and consume much more power. Be sure to understand the actual needs of your users and choose the most appropriate hardware.

Software differences Windows 8 and RT are related and look alike in the tiled user interface as well as the ability to reach the desktop that users have become used to. But they still have some significant differences. Windows 8 is the “full” version of Windows and is compatible with software that would run under Windows 7. Windows RT runs so-called Windows Store apps, which are like the apps you would download for a tablet or smartphone. It will not run a Windows 7 application. However, Windows 8 will run Windows Store apps. To further confuse things, some Office programs — Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, though not Outlook — come pre-installed on Windows RT. Settling on one or the other means doing a thorough use analysis.

Licensing If some of that seems confusing, it has nothing on the licensing issues. For example, the RT versions of Office programs are the Home and Student versions and only licensed for personal use, not for “use in commercial, nonprofit, or revenue-generating activities.” However, you may not need to purchase additional licensing if you already have a license for Office 365 ProPlus, Office 365 Small Business Premium, Office Midsize Business or Office 365 Enterprise.

In addition, there is some provision for users with Windows 8 PCs covered by Software Assurance for Volume Licensing to bring RT devices into work and connect to the corporate network through virtual desktop infrastructure or Windows To Go, an enterprise feature that lets machines boot from USB drives or external hard drives. Now is the time to review your company’s computing needs and upgrade plans and to begin to create a migration path so users get the best match between what they want and need and what they can get.

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