Microsoft has officially launched Windows 8 ahead of the commercial release of its operating system (OS) and Surface tablet worldwide on Friday.
The new OS has been designed for use on desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones as the firm battles to win customers back from Apple with an apparent focus on bring your own device. (BYOD)
Windows 8 offers a new user interface and a range of apps that at launch will be available on over 1,000 certified PCs and tablets.
"With the launch of Windows 8, Microsoft is unveiling a reimagined Windows to the world," said Jean-Pierre Van Tiel, UK director of Windows, Microsoft.
"Whether you want a tablet or a PC, whether you want to consume or create, whether you want to work or play – Windows 8 delivers a personalised experience that fits your unique style and needs."
However, many are yet to be convinced that the new, arguably tablet-focused Windows 8 is what businesses need.
"With the double launch of Windows 8 and the Surface tablet this week, it is clear that Windows 8 has been optimised for tablet users as opposed to providing that slick finish we have come to expect on the enterprise side," said Sumir Karayi, CEO at 1E and former Microsoft engineer.
"As a traditionally strong player in the enterprise space, Microsoft has opted to emulate the Apple look-and-feel with this new release. While the Windows 8 core is based on Windows 7 – which as a result of sustained evolution is an excellent Operating System – it is a shame that, on the desktop, the new Metro [now known as Modern UI] facade and the removal of the Start menu eradicate years of familiarity synonymous with the Windows brand," he continued.
"Ultimately, while Microsoft's focus on building a better user interface for the enterprise space is commendable, it has certainly missed a trick when it comes to improving basic manageability and support," Karayi added.
Others believe Windows 8 could be positive in helping to shift businesses towards a BYOD infrastructure.
"The Windows 8 touch-based interface is ideally suited for the tablets and smartphones driving BYOD in enterprises and smaller businesses," said David Blackman, general manager of Northern Europe for Acronis, a backup and software recovery services firm.
"A raft of tablet and smartphone products are due to be released over the coming months that will incorporate Windows 8 and its interface as standard. Organisations will come under pressure from users to support these devices in their corporate infrastructure," he continued, arguing that Windows 8 could prove to be positive for the enterprise.
"Businesses should not be afraid to meet those expectations. With the right backup strategy to protect them and help them roll back, there is no reason why organisations should delay putting the structures in place to support Windows 8 adoption for BYOD and mobile devices," Blackman concluded.
Microsoft has set a low price point on an upgrade to its new OS, with PCs running Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows qualified to download Windows 8 Pro for an estimated £24.99. Full pricing details were revealed earlier this month.