How to Determine the Total Cost of Ownership for Windows 8

Many IT organizations use Total Cost of Ownership or TCO analysis to determine the economic value of new technology deployments.

Windows 8 as a new platform is no different, requiring organizations to look at all the hardware, software, operational and long-term ramifications of deployment.

Let’s make two guiding statements to get started;

  • There are some unknowns with a TCO analysis for Windows 8, due to the newness of the technology. There is more uncertainty than with a Vista to Windows 7 migration, as the user paradigm, interface, and device spread is very different.
  • The TCO analysis will vary dramatically between companies based on their current PC and server platforms.  For example, a recent Windows 7 firm will likely have different results from a Windows XP firm.

Having said that, what would the outlines of a Windows 8 TCO analysis look like and how would they differ from prior versions of Windows?

Let’s look first at the hardware. Microsoft states the minimum hardware requirements for running Windows 8 include a processor with a clock speed of 1GHz or more; at least 2GB of RAM for 64-bit systems (or 1GB for 32-bit), 20GB of hard drive space (16GB for 32-bit), and DirectX 9-capable graphics.

Most hardware running Windows 7 will meet these requirements, XP and Vista machines may need to be upgraded. What most prior PCs will need to be upgraded are their display units, if the touch interface is used.

Non-touchscreens and even older touchscreens will not be able to take full advantage of Windows 8 capabilities. Many of the older touchscreens have single or dual point touch recognition – Windows 8 can handle 5(!) points of touch for one hand and 10 for two hands.

New trackpads and keyboards optimized for Windows 8 may also be needed. In addition, many firms will need to factor in the costs of new tablets and smartphones that may be the reason for the entirre migration in the first place.

Let’s not forget that a new cast of device drivers must be assembled for all these devices to work together without problems. Throw in migration costs, warranties, installation, hardware research and that will round out hardware costs.

Of course for the software, Windows 8 licenses will be a primary cost component. Microsoft has bent over backwards to reduce (at least for an introductory period) the costs of the OS itself.

Single user Windows 8 Pro downloads are still $40 while CDs are $70. For volume purchasers, ZDNet notes;

Windows 8 system-builder pricing will be largely consistent with Windows 7 system-builder pricing. Windows 8 (the low-end SKU) will cost system builders and hobbyists something just under $100 (U.S.) per copy. Windows 8 Pro will likely cost $20 to $40 more per copy.

Additional software such as Office 2013 (not mandatory, but better utilizes Win 8 features) will add to the software tab, as will selected apps from the Microsoft App Store.

There will be higher testing costs than normal for the two-personality OS, plus the requisite installation costs.

Operations Costs
Infrastructure, downtime, testing, and backup costs will not be remarkable compared to previous versions of Windows.

Where you can expect to see significant differences are in technology training and security policies.

With the new Metro-style interface, Windows 8 will startle some of your users with its differences from Windows versions. Differences mean more training. More training equals greater cost.

If, as previously mentioned, you have just completed a migration to the very capable Windows 7, then a new migration before getting good use from Windows 7 will require you to compute the opportunity cost of not fully using Windows 7.

Many organizations in the first of second year of Windows 7 deployment have already concluded that Windows 8 makes little economic sense as a desktop platform replacement.

Finally longer-term expenses such as upgrades and replacements will not be dramatically different from prior OS generations.

In summary, TCO calculations for Windows 8 deployment must be comprehensive and include new hardware costs, opportunity costs of moving from the existing platform, and additional costs of training.

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