If you've seen a screenshot of the new Windows 8 operating system, you have likely been shocked by just how different this new OS looks. One of the biggest changes to the Windows 8 operating system is the user interface. It is certainly innovative, and it's designed to support the use of touch screen devices far better than its predecessors.

But despite these fancy new features, making the switch to Windows 8 is intimidating. We heard from business owners themselves about these fears and challenges in Windows 8 for Small Business: Upgrade or Wait? But what about the benefits? Here are four key perks for business owners who take the Windows 8 plunge.

  1. Better Support for Tablets
    With the rise of the cloud and the increased need for businesses to have access to their data wherever, whenever, having a platform that can support mobile devices is crucial. The design of Windows 8 is meant not only for traditional computers that use a mouse and keyboard, but also for tablets.

    The start screen found in Windows 8 is a perfect example of this. Traditionally, the Windows start screen was accessed through the trusted "Start" button, which has been a Windows staple since Windows 95. Now, the start screen has been changed to show all applications at once across the screen. This seems overwhelming at first, but it is sleek and easy to get used to. For small business owners, this start screen is useful in the office and on the road. It's also far more conducive to people using tablets to access their computer and information. (Find out why tablets and other portable devices are so important for business in BYOT: What It Means for IT.)

  2. Faster Startup Time
    Waiting for a computer to start up has frustrated Windows users for years. This has become an increasingly large challenge in business, as employees get hooked on the instant gratification provided by smartphones and tablets.

    With Windows 8, the startup time is no longer an issue because the system boots up faster than ever. Some initial reports suggest that startup time has been dramatically reduced to only eight seconds. This is a big enough difference from the current Windows 7 and other operating systems that businesses will be able to not only see a new design but also feel the power of the engine behind this innovative operating system. For business travelers and people who use their computers to make presentations and access data, having a quick startup time may be invaluable.

  3. No Need for New Hardware
    Hardware is expensive and for small businesses operating on shoestring budgets, purchasing new devices to support a new operating system is out of the question. With Windows 8, the operating system has been designed to work well not only with existing hardware, but also with the most innovative devices on the market, such as touch screen desktop computers.

    When businesses use Windows 8, they can use it with multiple devices. This is significant because it allows companies to keep their old hardware, but also have a reliable system that will expand into their new hardware purchases. Tablets and desktops are equally supported, making this a more versatile operating system. For business owners who want to make the same technology available inside the office accessible outside the office on portable devices, Windows 8 could provide an important competitive advantage - and one that will help make the jobs of professionals far easier and more organized.

  4. Easier App Access
    With the abundance of business applications available, many small businesses struggle to find the ones that are right for their company. Windows 8 promises an app store that makes this task easier. The new Windows Store found in Windows 8 has been designed to offer both free and paid applications. These applications allow professionals to get the tools they need to do their job better. While installing new software programs on computers has not been a particularly difficult challenge, the application store makes it just a little bit easier to research options and find the right one for each employee. This is especially useful for small businesses, because it delivers easy access to the tools they need to run a business more efficiently. One drawback is the relatively small number of apps currently available, although this is expected to expand once the OS is released.
For so many small and medium-sized businesses, making the switch from one technology platform to another can be a scary experience. This is especially true of switching between operating systems. The worry comes as a result of uncertainty over performance, the time it will take away from the business to make the switch and fear of data loss in the process. Still, with the highly anticipated release of Windows 8, many small business owners stand to benefit from changing over to this innovative operating system. While there is a lot that has yet to be explored, the potential benefits are promising.

If you're using Windows 8 in your small business, let us know how it's going.