Paul's Picks: Windows 8 Developer Preview and Small Business Server 2011 Essentials

A successful UI for Windows 8 and a simple AD infrastructure for SBS 2011

Windows 8 Developer Preview

PROS: Major innovations in user experience and the underlying platform; a solid foundation for client computing; expands Windows to a new, mobile-oriented market

CONS: Mainly a consumer-oriented release with few major advances for the enterprise; switching between new shell and old desktop is jarring

RATING: Four out of five stars

RECOMMENDATION: Seeing the new Windows 8 shell, the Start screen, months ago, tech enthusiasts and pundits griped that the software giant's one-size-fits-all approach would never work. Well, not only is Windows 8 beautiful and usable, it augurs a new age of truly personal computing with a UI that works well with touch, mouse and keyboard, or pen, and across devices with screens as small as seven inches or multiple 30-inch displays.

Its UI is so successful, in fact, that Microsoft is using it for Windows Server and Xbox 360, and my sources say that Windows Phone will switch over in late 2012. It offers no major improvements for businesses, but it can be configured to look and work much like Windows 7, sparing cash-strapped entities from having to retrain employees.

Did Microsoft just yank victory from the jaws of defeat? It's early yet, but I do believe it did.

CONTACT: Microsoft 

DISCUSSION: See Paul Thurrott's full review at SuperSite for Windows: “Windows 8 Developer Preview”


Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials

PROS: A rejiggered SBS for the cloud-computing age; nice separation of cloud- and on-premises computing resources; simple AD infrastructure

CONS: Arguably incomplete without Office 365 add-in

RATING: Three out of five stars

RECOMMENDATION: Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials is the SBS product I asked for years ago. Based on the same solid underpinnings as Windows Home Server 2011, it offers the simplest setup and management I've ever seen for Active Directory domains, centralized PC and server backup, centralized network health monitoring, content storage and sharing, great remote access tools, and a truly useful extensibility model.

Its weak point is that Office 365 and cloud-based email, contacts, calendar, and document management, are nowhere to be seen. Microsoft says those will ship in late 2011. Then SBS 2011 Essentials will be a no-brainer for new small businesses.

CONTACT: Microsoft

DISCUSSION: See Paul Thurrott's full review at SuperSite for Windows: Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials”

To learn more about Windows 8, see these articles:
1. Reimagining Microsoft: How Windows 8 and Windows Server 8 Change all the Rules, by Jeff James
2. Windows 7 Drivers Seem to Work with Windows 8, by Orin Thomas

To learn more about Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials, see these articles:
1. Waiting on the Attack of the Small Business Servers, by Paul Thurrott
2. S mall Business Server Essentials and Small Business Strategy at TechEd 2011, by Zac Wiggy

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