Following the release of a Developer Preview in September 2011 and a Consumer Preview in February 2012, Microsoft released Windows 8 to manufacturing on August 1st, 2012. The official release date for Windows 8 was October 26th, 2012 and most Windows hardware vendors shipped at least some systems with Windows 8 installed in time for the 2012 winter holiday buying season.
Information Systems & Computing (ISC) will support Windows 8 for its clients, including off-campus students, on systems that ship with Windows 8 pre-installed. ISC strongly recommends that all other University users considering an upgrade to Windows 8 adopt a "wait and see" approach, continuing to use earlier supported versions of Windows (Windows 7 SP1 and Windows Vista SP2) until the initial bugs and compatability issues in Windows 8 are identified and fixed.
-- John Mulhern III, Lead for Client Technologies, ISC Technology Support Services
Arguably, Windows 8 marks the biggest change to the user-facing portions of Windows since Windows 95, and perhaps all the way back to the original Windows 1.0. The default interface, previously code-named "Metro" and now designated "Modern" or "Windows 8", is optimized for touch, with large finger-friendly tiles and various swipes to activate and manipulate. Users of Windows Phone 7.x/8.x and other Microsoft consumer devices such as the Xbox will find this interface to be somewhat familiar, though not identical.
It should be understood that there are two interfaces in Windows 8: the new "Modern" user interface and the classic Windows desktop, familiar to users of Windows 7 or Vista. The classic desktop itself is merely another tile within the Start screen, and the Start screen (shown to the left) shares only its name with previous Start menus. Signs of this major interface transition pervade Windows 8. For example, there are two versions of Windows Internet Explorer 10: one that works within the Modern interface and one that runs within the classic desktop, and they do not share the same range of capabilities. Another example is that basic preferences are manipulated within the Modern interface, while detailed preferences require an exit to the classic Control Panel.
The biggest behind-the-scenes change is the addition of ARM-licensed processor support, which should allow lightweight tablets with excellent battery life. ARM-based systems will not be backward compatible with almost all older Windows applications — they will only run applications written for the Modern interface.
Compatibility at Penn
Many University applications function as expected in Windows 8, including AirPennNet, XpressConnect, Online Directory, Exchange, and Zimbra. An extensive University-Centric Windows 8 Compatibility matrix is available in the Compatibility tab.
Whether Windows 8 becomes the dominant operating system for the majority of the University's Windows users remains to be seen. There is much uncertainty about how Microsoft plans to sell a touch- and tablet-centric operating system to an installed base where tablets are the exception and not the rule. Licensing and distribution remain unclear, though one of the delivery methods will be Microsoft's app store. There are many new hardware devices being released that are designed for Windows 8. The most notable is Microsoft's Surface, but there are many other devices being released by Dell, Lenovo, and others. The Notebook Purchasing Guide has been updated with Windows 8-specific guidance.
Microsoft has announced four separate versions of Windows 8:
The "consumer" version of Windows 8, roughly analogous to Windows 7 Home Premium, available in 32-bit and 64-bit versions.
Windows 8 Pro
The "professional" version of Windows 8, roughly analogous to Windows 7 Ultimate, available in 32-bit and 64-bit versions. ISC believes this version of Windows 8 is the appropriate choice for most University users. Windows 8 Pro also includes downgrade rights to Windows 7.
Windows 8 Enterprise
For customers with Software Assurance agreements, essentially Windows 8 Pro with some additional enterprise-oriented features.
The tablet-only version of Windows 8 for ARM-based systems. Windows RT includes touch-optimized versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote but does not have the ability to run most Windows applications. Windows Media Center is no longer a separate version of Windows, but instead is an extra cost add-on available to Windows 8 Pro users.
Adobe - see Dreamweaver, Flash Player, Adobe Reader
AirPennNet - compatible
Apple - see QuickTime
BitLocker - integrated in Pro and Enterprise and compatible
Box - compatible and functions within the Modern/tiled environment
Microsoft Calendar - integrated, compatible, and functions within the Modern/tiled environment
Chrome .current - compatible (future versions will function within the Modern/tiled environment)
DHCP - compatible
DNS - compatible
Dreamweaver CS5.x - compatible
Dreamweaver CS6 - compatible
Excel 2007 - compatible
Excel 2010 - compatible
Excel 2013 - compatible
FileMaker Pro 11.0.x - not yet tested
FileMaker Pro 12.0.x - compatible
Firefox .current - compatible
Firefox 10esr - not yet tested
Flash Player 11.6 - integrated within Windows Internet Explorer 10 and compatible, also compatible when used within desktop versions of Chrome and Firefox
HostExplorer 14.0.x - compatible
Hummingbird - see HostExplorer
Kerberos for Windows 3.2.2 - compatible
Microsoft Mail - integrated, compatible, and functions within the Modern tiled environment
Microsoft - see Calendar, Excel 2007, Excel 2010, Excel 2013, Mail, Office 2007, Office 2010, Office 2013, OneNote 2010, OneNote 2013, OneNote MX, Outlook 2007, Outlook 2010, Outlook 2013, Reader, Remote Desktop, Windows Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player, Word 2007, Word 2010, Word 2013
Mozilla - see Firefox and Thunderbird
Office 2007 - compatible
Office 2010 - compatible
Office 2013 - compatible
OneNote 2010 - compatible (OneNote MX functions within the Modern/tiled environment)
OneNote 2013 - compatible (OneNote MX functions within the Modern/tiled environment)
OneNote MX - compatible and functions within the Modern/tiled environment
Outlook 2007 - compatible (Microsoft Mail and Microsoft Calendar function as ActiveSync email and calendar clients within the Modern/tiled environment)
Outlook 2010 - compatible (Microsoft Mail and Microsoft Calendar function as ActiveSync email and calendar clients within the Modern/tiled environment)
Outlook 2013 - compatible (Microsoft Mail and Microsoft Calendar function as ActiveSync email and calendar clients within the Modern/tiled environment)
PGP Whole Disk Encryption - not compatible (Symantec expects to release a compatible version of PGP in 2013)
Pidgin 2.10.x - compatible
PowerPoint 2007 - compatible
PowerPoint 2010 - compatible
PowerPoint 2013 - compatible
QuickTime 7.7.x - compatible
Adobe Reader XI 10.0.x - compatible (Microsoft Reader functions as a basic PDF reader within the Modern/tiled environment)
Microsoft Reader - integrated, compatible, and functions within the Modern/tiled environment
Remote Desktop - compatible and functions within the Modern/tiled environment
SecureCRT 7.0.2 - compatible)
SecureW2 3.5.x - not needed (802.1X supplicant is integrated)
Symantec Endpoint Protection 12.1.2 - compatible
Thunderbird .current - compatible
VanDyke - see SecureCRT
Windows Media Player 12 - integrated and compatible
Windows Internet Explorer 10 - both versions (Modern/tiled and classic) are integrated and compatible
Word 2007 - compatible
Word 2010 - compatible
Word 2013 - compatible
WS_FTP Professional 12.3.x - compatible
XPressConnect 4.0.x - compatible