Business computing needs, whether you like it or not are changing. On the “death” of XP, this article is my opinions of why you should consider a serious move to Windows 8.1 and make the “giant step for mankind” or at least the workplace. XP and IE8 (you can’t upgrade IE any higher than that) have been around so long, that to keep it going to be compatible with newer computing and web features, you have to load patches for frame fixes, run strange utilities so as to update IIS and the many frameworks that have been applied since its initial installation. Let alone all of the monthly patches & updates Microsoft have to send to keep the vulnerabilities down.
Alternatives to IE8 browser such as Chrome, and Firefox, open the possibility of hanging onto the O/S a little longer, but again. The O/S isn’t designed to take into account new website features, slow loading pages, missing sections with the (can’t load/you need x plug in etc.) and just plain old errors will just spoil the browsing experience for the user
This isn’t IT maintenance it’s been more like Doctor Frankenstein adding and changing bits so as to keep the monster alive. IT have had to give a lot more than casual maintenance to keep XP properly operational, and those who haven’t, have had to bear the brunt of system misbehaviours, and user complaint.
Over the recent months companies and individuals have been proudly announcing “we’re moving to Windows 7 now XP is going”. Don’t get me wrong I doff my cap to Windows 7. It’s a rock solid OS, but its four years old already. In fact it’s based/developed from Vista, which hit the ground running in 2007 nearly 7 years ago.
Back then OS drove the business computing market, and Vista paid a heavy price. Originally deemed the XP replacement back then, it was shunned. It’s different appearance (that will pop up again), its slow speed and lack of early compatibility with device drivers were amongst the nails in Vista’s coffin. Given a hasty polish and tune up it reappeared as Windows 7 and the rest as they say is history, in producing a solid reliable desktop OS, and that’s the problem the desktop, this reliance on the familiar has become a shackle in holding back essential change.
The last couple of years the business computing need has evolved, mobility and “agile working” (sorry hate buzzwords) have come to the fore front in computing requirements of business staff and, indeed day-to-day working practices. Having staff that can work on the move efficiently, or work from home without any major outlay (of time or money) is all becoming a necessity. Not only to cover the 9 to 5, but extended or out of hours requirements, such as international customers, or simply the heavy workload times.
Don’t get me wrong the use of technology for technology’s sake is just waste. Putting certain software onto a touch screen just for the gimmick has never been a proven business tactic that worked in any environment, financially. It’s been simply a trick to show that software can move with the times and usually not an essential operation fulfilment at all.
But, the obvious rise of the tablet, gains mobility in the workplace. The smart phone has evolved into the phablet so much so. It’s getting difficult to tell them apart. Cloud technologies are advancing for business and the individual again so much so they’re almost becoming transparent to users.
With these factors inter device exchange is paramount these days, and that doesn’t mean converting files you create on device a so it’s compatible with device b, simply that you can pick up and carry on with the same work on either device any time you like.
Chained to the desktop.
In June this year the government will announce its agile working policy, allowing employees with children under the age of 17, to ask employers for agile/home working. The government’s estimates are high on the amount of extra money this will generate employers, but that as they say is another story.
Using this upcoming scenario upgrading your works computer to Windows 7 is effectively chaining you to the desktop, as an agile worker. If you need files from the computer you’re looking at access company networks either by VPN and RDP, this offers the standard security headache for IT, in that the user has a to have a machine that can be used to access the company’s systems. One no doubt that been used by little Joe to play games on and various other members of the family downloading everything and anything.
Being able to access your files using Windows 7 via tablet device is a non starter, as Microsoft ventured into the touch market with Windows 7 Touch years ago. But, has never been a success (but there’s been no crowds with torch and pitchforks over this) simply because previously there’s been no heavy requirement for touch screen usage like there is now. Attempting to use Windows 7 on a 10” touch tablet requires more finger dexterity that that of a 19th Century pick pocket and rapidly becomes unworkable and a frustration for users.
So, why do we feel compelled to replace like with like? Granted there’s a few years left on Win 7. But people will be in the exact same boat when Windows 7 support gets withdrawn in years to come. Effectively making a jump from desktop to more flexibility, as the opportunity is there now, why not make the transition now?
We’re supposed to learn from history, sticking to what you know just because it must work / as it’s been out for years, so its stable, this argument is now defunct. A lazy IT policy isn’t saving money, it’s delaying the inevitable, and possibly even risking further expense as the workplace changes. With IT requirements having to cover more ground just to catch up, let alone keep up with changing technology.
Windows 8 is Microsoft’s attempt to get its foot late into the door of mobile computing, and was heavily criticised for doing so, presenting a whole new interface and different ways of completing a task. So much indifference and criticism to the O/S was given that a hasty patch 8.1 was created so as to calm the crowd. (Any of this sound familiar?)
Still not enough, the upgrade 1 patch has been released. Which brings back the mouse right click tricks and allows the new interface components to be applied to the desktop too. We’ve been slaves so long to the desktop that we think we can’t live without it. The spring update is no doubt a pacifier to dedicated I’ve always done it that way users, in an attempt to woo hardened desktop users.
New devices new ways to think and do.
Since late 2012 devices have driven business requirements, so many have entered the market it’s getting impossible to say which is ideal, but netbooks, laptops, 2 in 1’s, tablets/ phablets of various shapes and sizes are available from various manufacturers. The advantages of this is that hardware prices are low for a high spec machines.
Windows 8.1 offers an operating system that can easily be used across the various hardware types, without networking magic so as to link home/being on the move easily to business.
The “one account” can allow you to transplant your setup and applications across these devices, and with Windows “to go” your machine can appear on any other machine. So there’s flexibility and easy maintainability within Windows 8. If you use Windows 7 and the machine goes pop, you’re talking best part of a day for another machine to be set up and configured to replace it. Windows 8 to go in theory it’s as simply inserting a USB into a base setup alternative machine. Or, even just logging into the other machine with your account to bring in your applications.
Cloud storage options are built into the OS and its most widely used application Microsoft Office, a document can be started off at work and continued with on the journey home or at home, all from a single location. Required antivirus ensures that saving back from anywhere outside of the network keeps the file content safe from harm. Again all effortlessly saved to / loaded from cloud without having to leave the application.
The machine at home can have its own user account, so even if the machine is used by all the family the account set aside for work purposes is to a degree, immune from all of the possible tat that other members of the family can generate, offering less of a headache for IT to allow home working, not having to cater for every single fearful eventuality on a on works machine accessing data.
People don’t like change
Neither did the luddites!! The second biggest obstacle to applying in Windows 8 has been the training / skills transfer argument, sorry but in business computing and even home computing to a degree that’s just tosh. Even more so with the update 1 patch to Windows 8.
Firstly business use of computers in the office for the vast majority involves repetition, either using the same applications or shortcuts to applications used for work. Using the training argument in this case is equivalent in not buying a new car purely because they moved the hazard warning light switch from your favourite position. In fact most IT sections lock down the desktop so users cannot make changes to the computer anyway.
Windows 8 even has the desktop mode (shudders as using that as a +ve) where all the familiar desktop setup can take place, the reduced features available from the equivalent start button make it easier for IT to lock down, while still being able to present a familiar desktop environment for the office based user.
A brief but comprehensive run down of the features are :-
Open apps are now displayed on the taskbar.
2. The apps can be closed by pressing a X in the top right corner. The keyboard combination “Win + Arrow down” does not close the app anymore, but instead it minimize it, and you have to right-click it to close it. (The cursor to top of the screen, and left-click while pulling down does still work)
3. A shutdown icon on the upper right corner of the start screen, and a search button beside it. 4. Right-clicking a tile on the start menu open an option menu directly at the tile, so you don’t have to go to the button for choosing an option.
Secondly the new interface UI does not take rocket science to use, again majority of people own a touch screen phone these days, so “swiping” nothing new. Nor is the mimicking of the action by mouse becomes second nature. Yes, there’s a learning curve as there is with everything new, but it’s nowhere near as steep as people make out.
Users that want to close or minimise applications will now have the familiar right click features as used in older Windows versions) after the Upgrade 1 option.
Time to change ?
An acquaintance on Linked in said that the workflow of users is the largest hold off to upgrade, and through experience with users I have to agree. But Windows 8 is in a far better place to be considered a replacement o/s for a single user or a company, as the interface and devices available to run it (even the limited RT version) satisfy various holes in your IT requirements
Its time not only to work differently, but smarter too ..