In this era of seemingly endless economic recession, organizations are often understandably reluctant to perform unnecessary upgrades, such as moving from Windows 7 to Windows 8. But are there situations in which going ahead and upgrading to Windows 8 might result in savings on licensing costs?
In all honesty, there probably isn't a situation in which upgrading to Windows 8 will cause an organization to spend less money than if they didn't upgrade. Even if you subscribe to Microsoft's Software Assurance program (and essentially get the Windows 8 licenses for free), there are still implementation costs and training costs to consider. Even so, there are some ways an upgrade to Windows 8 might be able to save your organization a bit of money.
One of the main ways in which you might be able to save money is in regard to email connectivity. Although Exchange Server 2003 included an Outlook license with each standard Client Access License, Microsoft quit including Outlook licenses starting with Exchange Server 2007. As such, if an organization wants to use Outlook to connect to any of the newer versions of Exchange Server, then an Outlook license is required.
In many of the organizations that I have dealt with, there are at least some users who don't use any Microsoft Office products other than Outlook. For example, I once worked for an insurance company in which most of the employees spent the bulk of their day working in a proprietary claims database application. These employees used Outlook, but they had no business need for Word, Excel, or PowerPoint. Similarly, in my last corporate job, the president of the company used Outlook, but he never touched any of the other Office applications. His secretary took care of typing memos and that sort of thing.
My point is that it is wasteful to purchase an Office license for every user if there are some users who do not actually need to use Office.
So what does this have to do with Windows 8? Well, Windows 8 has a built-in mail client. Windows 8's mail client is based on ActiveSync (the same protocol that smartphones use for accessing Exchange email). The Exchange Server Standard Client Access License allows for users to access their messages using an ActiveSync client without incurring any additional licensing costs (such as purchasing an Enterprise Client Access License or purchasing an Outlook license).
The Windows 8 mail client isn't as full-featured as Outlook, but it can be used for free so long as the user has a valid Windows 8 license and a valid Client Access License for Exchange (or whatever mail system the organization happens to be using). The Windows 8 messaging app appears on the Start screen by default and new messages are displayed within live tiles. Similar default apps provide users with access to their contacts and calendar items.
Using the built-in Windows 8 mail client is a viable option for users who don't need advanced Outlook features and who don't use any of the other Microsoft Office products. For everyone else, it is probably better to continue using a full-blown copy of Office.
It is also worth mentioning that Windows RT devices include a built-in copy of Microsoft Office (excluding Outlook). If you have mobile users with aging laptops that need to be replaced, a Windows RT device might serve as a good alternative to a new laptop, depending on the work style of the user. Windows RT devices include the same basic mail client as Windows 8, and has a built-in copy of Microsoft Office 2013. However, these devices have some significant limitations that may make them unsuitable for some users. Some of these limitations include:
- Windows RT devices cannot run legacy Windows applications.
- Windows RT cannot be domain joined.
- The built-in copy of Office 2013 lacks a few features. Most notably Outlook is not included and there is no macro support.
In spite of these limitations, Windows RT devices may prove to be a good option for some mobile users. This will primarily be the case if the user routinely works from a remote desktop.
In conclusion, there probably isn't a situation in which upgrading to Windows 8 results in a gross savings. However, you might be able to use Windows 8's built-in mail client (or Windows RT's built-in copy of Office) to reduce the cost of an Office 2013 upgrade.