For many years now, businesses have been accustomed to Microsoft’s seemingly arbitrary release cycle for its core applications. We’ve seen a steady release of Windows products (XP, Vista, 7), Windows Server (2000, 2003, 2008 and various Small Business Server offerings) as well as their productivity suite, Microsoft Office. At times, it’s seemed that there may not be many usability improvements or significant feature inclusions. Enter Wave 15.
What is Wave 15? Put simply, it’s a term used to bundle together all of Microsoft’s key applications and operating systems of the current generation:
• Windows Server 2012
• Exchange 2013 / Office 365
• Windows 8
• SharePoint 2013
• Lync 2013
For the majority of businesses, the main focus will be on Windows Server, Exchange or Office 365 and Windows 8 as these will directly affect day-to-day operations and end-user experiences. Within these products, sweeping changes have been made to both the aesthetics and technology.
UNIFIED USER INTERFACE
The first thing users notice when they sit in front of Windows 8 or Office 2013 is the sweeping changes to the user interface. During previous product revisions, it was hard to understand why certain changes were made.
Wave 15 has taken a far smarter approach: whether you’re using a PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone the Windows experience is the same. You’re greeted with a familiar user interface on each device.
Further, each of your devices can share common settings and features. For example, if you find a website you like on your laptop and you bookmark it, that bookmark will appear on your phone and tablet as well. If you customised your Metro Tiles (pictured above) those customisations can be synchronised to all of your devices.
It does take some getting used to, but it’s a leap in the right direction and eliminates the clutter of the traditional Start Menu, putting all your applications and information quite literally at your fingertips.
One of the hottest topics within IT circles has been Cloud services. With Wave 15, Microsoft has tightly integrated their Cloud offerings with Windows 8 and Office 2013. A completely new Exchange back-end has also been used for Exchange 2013 that allows native federation between local Exchange services and Office 365 Cloud Email hosting, while also improving on the existing Outlook Web Access experience and replicating the Office 2013 user interface and functionality.
SkyDrive, Microsoft’s Cloud file hosting service is now easily accessible via Windows 8 as though it was a network drive, or via a button within Office 2013. SkyDrive offers easily configurable options that allow users to share files from anywhere in the world as though they were working on a network drive – all without the use of VPN or remote desktop connections to the office. Automatic synchronisation ensures all users are viewing the same version of documents and files.
This integration removes a great deal of complexity for end-users and reduces the TCO for businesses as their collaboration, storage and remote access become simplified and less reliant on physical restrictions such as hardware or location.
BACKEND TECHNOLOGY CHANGES
There are also significant changes to security and efficiency that take place in the backend that won’t be visible to users. These include far more advanced malware prevention features in Windows 8, integrated multi-phase authentication options for PCs and servers and greater control over mobile devices and remote access.
Microsoft has also continued the tradition started in Windows 7 of ensuring maximum compatibility with legacy hardware and software while also taking advantage of modern improvements where possible. In most cases, it’s not necessary to buy a new PC to run Windows 8, or to worry that your version of MYOB or existing CRM software will work. If you have a five year old computer you’ll most likely be able to upgrade to Office 2013 and Windows 8 and take advantage of the improvements they deliver. However, Windows 8 will also improve performance of modern hardware such as Sold State Disks, power-saving CPUs, large hard disks and multiple graphics cards out of the box, with minimal fuss with drivers.
To discuss Wave 15 products and the advantages they can bring to your organisation, please call us to speak to a consultant on +61 2 9386 2900