I have been testing Windows 8 on a PC at home for nearly a year and as an experienced windows fan let me say to anyone that has never seen it, Windows 8 is different. Real different. Like I still don't know what I am totally doing different. Like my wife and family refuse to use it different.
It is the massive sidestep Windows had to take to continue to be the the operating system that is everything to everyone. A luxury that Apple has avoided as it makes operating systems exclusively for their limited but massively successful hardware range.
The reason it is so different is because Microsoft wants to create a seamless experience from desktop PC to Tablet to Smartphone. In that sense it delivers in spades and is already the number two mobile OS way ahead of Android but just lacking some of the polish of Apple's iOS.
It does all this at the sacrifice of of it's 1.7 billion Windows desktop users around the globe and this is the problem that could plague businesses and schools for the next three years if you jump without looking.
What does this mean for schools I hear you ask, well it basically means three things.
1: Windows 7 will and should remain your premium desktop operating system for at least the next three years. It works beautifully in a server based environment, and will only improve further as the vast majority of enterprise and education users will rely on it to get them through the transformational change in computers from PC's to tablets. Any Windows XP users still out there still? This is your time to step up Windows 7 without any fear.
2: Windows 8 will be the best tablet based solution for education bar none. I love my iPad, but I hate the fact it's not a windows PC with Office, Photoshop and Flash and can print and save to my school network without worrying about iCrap.
I love my Windows 7 laptop and desktop but hate the fact it's not a super cool tablet with 100,000 apps and heaps of cool gadgets and 10 hours battery life.
The next generation of Windows 8 based tablets tick all these boxes. But expect to pay a premium of at least $1000 for an iPad quality tablet initially and $500 for a cheapy.
3: Your students will inevitably demand that you switch to tablets and the iPad might be a great stop gap for now. There is no shadow of a doubt that touch based tablet computing is the future of educational I.T for a multitude of reason,s and students will at some point see no purpose in laptop and desktop computers. But right now, the iPad is the best example of this model and at under $400 per unit it is very appealing to schools and this will be the case for a while yet whilst Windows 8 finds it's feet.
Forget Android: Honestly what will it offer or do better than the iPad or a Windows 8 Tablet? You will be holding the Beta max or Ubuntu tablet in two years time if you buy one now. It is already sub par in comparison and I can't see it catching up.
Windows 8 is still a little bit behind the iPad and iOS currently if you are looking at it through a students eyes and you would not be foolish to wait 2 years when the big guns of computing in HP, Dell and now Samsung have some really aggressive windows tablets in the education market space.
In short, don't even contemplate switching your network over to windows 8 until you have a large number of Windows tablets in teachers and students hands to soften the transition period. At this time I am sure Apple will have created the next big thing that may make all of this look so 2012.