In the first article of this series, we discussed what the end of Windows XP support means for you. In the second article, we predicted what would make you finally upgrade to a later operating system. Now let us help you determine which operating system is the best upgrade choice for you.
When you’re finally ready to upgrade, the first thing you need to know is that any of the operating systems after Windows XP are more demanding of computer resources, so you’re probably not going to be able to upgrade the operating system on the same hardware like you may have done from Windows 2000 to XP; you’re going to need a new computer. Windows Vista was so poorly received by the market that Microsoft had to rapidly release its successor, Windows 7, which was much better-accepted. Consequently, don’t even consider Windows Vista. You’re left with basically three choices: Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1, or wait for Windows 9.
Windows 7 has a somewhat new look and feel, but largely operates similarly to Windows XP. Things are in roughly the same places, and similar tools control similar features and functions. If you want to transition into an operating system in which you can rapidly be efficient, despite its age, Windows 7 may be the way for you to go. It still has a desktop, and something like a Start menu and a task bar, and its applications still have title bars, menu bars, toolbars, and status bars. It’s no longer being sold by Microsoft, but third-party resellers still have it available in boxes or preinstalled on PCs. Although it’s the oldest of the post-XP operating systems, which means it will be the next one to sunset, once you upgrade to Windows 7, your new hardware will support Windows 8 and probably Windows 9, so your next upgrade could be performed in-place, whenever you’re ready for that. For the vast majority of businesses that need to function with minimal training downtime and loss of productivity from unfamiliarity, Windows 7 may be the best next-step.
Windows 8/8.1 is a completely new paradigm in desktop operating systems. It has the look and feel of a smart phone or tablet, and is in fact probably better suited to such environments. Don’t even consider getting Windows 8 without a touchscreen – you’ll miss out on too much of the operating system’s wow. With a touchscreen, it will take a little getting used to, but once you get past the learning curve, it does become intuitive, and you can be productive with it. It has a Windows desktop, but not as the main focus of the operating system – it looks like an afterthought, just bolted on to retain compatibility with executable applications. The true vision of the operating system is for it to use apps available for download from the Microsoft Store, similar to the way iPhones and iPads use apps from iTunes. In fact, Windows 8 RT is a flavor of Windows 8 which only offers compatibility with such apps – no executables. It’s cheaper than Windows 8 Pro, but before you go that route, research the availability of apps for whatever you need apps to do for you. Windows 8 Pro will be the operating system of choice for the vast majority of users taking the Windows 8 plunge as the upgrade from their Windows XP desktop computers.
Windows 9 is still in development, so all we have are rumors about it. With the recent release of Windows 8.1, not even Microsoft’s marketing guys have started fluffing Windows 9 for us. The consensus appears to be that it will have a more centrally-focused desktop like XP or 7, rather than being primarily targeted for apps like 8. This is supported by the history of operating system development, too. Windows ME brought a new look and feel to Windows 98, but didn’t sell well – Windows 2000 tempered it with more of what the market wanted. Windows Vista brought a new security paradigm to Windows XP, but was too overbearing; Windows 7 tempered it with what the market was ready to accept. Windows 8 is a more interactive, visual, touchy-feely environment, and app-centered, but since the market hasn’t fully-embraced it, Windows 9 may well be a tempering of it with consumer expectations. If you need to upgrade sooner, this isn’t an option for you, but if you can hold onto XP for another year or two, you may be able to bypass Windows Vista, 7, and 8, and jump straight to 9.
If you still have questions, we would be happy to discuss your needs and budget to help you determine which upgrade path woud be the best choice for you. Contact us for a free consultation.