Earlier this month, Microsoft announced that the Windows start menu would be returning. I'd like to say "Microsoft is back!" and send a fruit basket to the company's CEO, Satya Nadella, but it would be silly to say that enterprise hopes and dreams for an OS hinge on one single feature that you can easily add with a third-party utility like ClassicShell.
It's true that the lack of a start menu is on the list of reasons companies haven't moved to Windows 8. The interface -- Metro/TileWorld/whatever you call it -- is another. Both of these problems are understandable, but neither of them is the primary reason for lack of adoption. The two main reasons Windows 8 adoption has suffered are these:
1. Companies have been consumed with migrating to Windows 7 from XP.
2. You can do everything you need to do with Windows 7, so why bother going to 8?
Those are fair points, but there's one key feature of desktop virtualization that companies are missing out on by not using Windows 8: RemoteFX. The first version of RemoteFX -- released with Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 SP1 -- was a bit of a beast. It worked really well on the LAN, but required the most pristine WAN you can imagine to be worthwhile in remote situations.
Reasons to love Microsoft RemoteFX in Windows 8
The current iteration of Microsoft RemoteFX has many enhancements that almost nobody has seen. Arguably the most important feature is called RemoteFX for WAN, which adds support for the User Datagram Protocol. TCP works by sending a packet, then waiting for the receiving end to acknowledge the receipt of that packet before sending another. It's great for ensuring all the data arrives in order, but over the WAN creates extra traffic that can lead to delays. UDP, on the other hand, just blasts out the data, and the receiving end processes what it gets when it gets it.
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There are other features, too, like multi-touch support, USB redirection, VoIP integration, and it no longer depends on a hardware GPU. The latest version of Microsoft RemoteFX -- which is also called RDP 8.1 since it's built on the Remote Desktop Protocol -- is a top-tier protocol. The problem is that not many people are using it because it requires Windows 8 or Windows Server 2012.
When Microsoft adds the start menu back (and possibly adds the ability to run TileWorld apps in windows on the desktop), we'll be more inclined to take advantage of all the features in RemoteFX. Plus, if Microsoft continues this every-other-OS-stinks series, Windows 9 stands to be halfway decent. You might think it's crazy to start talking Windows 9, but rumors have the release date set for the first half of 2015.
Whether it's in Windows 8.2 or Windows 9, when the start menu makes its return, give VDI or RDS a shot with Microsoft RemoteFX. You'll at least have fewer reasons to ignore it, and you might learn that you can get away with Microsoft-only desktop virtualization.