From the November 2012 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

What Does Windows 8 Mean for Advisors?

Microsoft’s latest upgrade has some implications for advisors’ offices

Early expectations for Windows 8 are that it will not receive as much attention and fanfare as the previous operating system. However, remember that with Windows 7, the initial goal was to quickly erase the memory of Windows Vista. 

For advisors, being an early adopter of Windows 8 is not a quick and simple decision. If you are currently running Windows 7 successfully, then you should be thorough in researching whether it is right for your firm to upgrade. Here are some items that you should consider as part of your Windows 8 evaluation process.

The first thing everyone notices with Windows 8 is that it looks different from previous Windows releases. The familiar “Start” button in the left-hand corner is gone, and Microsoft has introduced a “tiles” approach to accessing information and programs. There are already a number of opinions—and there will be more once Windows 8 is officially released—regarding whether the new functionality and design changes are a hit or miss with users. Given all the navigational changes, the different structure of the desktop and the new system for accessing files and folders, it would be wise for those operating in a business setting to start slow. Begin with one or two users in your office who can easily embrace this level of change. Use their experience to draft a plan for upgrading the rest of your office if you decide to do so.

When considering any operating system upgrade, reviewing your hardware needs is an important step in the evaluation. For a majority of users, their first experience with Windows 8 will come when they purchase a new computer or tablet on which it is preinstalled. This is certainly the easiest way to go, but also particularly important with Windows 8, because it has new functions designed to work with the latest hardware available. Using the right hardware, Windows 8 includes “touchscreen” technology that operates very much like touch-enabled devices such as your smartphone or tablet. When interacting with a program, you can use the keyboard or mouse, or touch the screen directly. Some computer manufacturers are even building products that run Windows 8 with both a PC and tablet in one device. Samsung, for example, offers the Series 7 Slate, which is best described as a hybrid PC. In another innovation, Windows 8 offers new flexibility in how you can make better use of dual monitors. For example, Windows 8 will allow each monitor to have its own taskbar, which is like having two users operate the computer at once.

Perhaps the behavior that everyone will be most critical of with Windows 8 will be the time it takes to boot up. A lengthy start-up time can dramatically reduce the overall success of a product. Initial time trial reports are that Windows 8 boots up faster than Windows 7 and competes well with other devices and operating systems. However, just like the gas mileage displayed on the sticker of a new car, I always find the real-life experience might be a little different.

Another important area to consider when evaluating Windows 8 involves the compatibility of software used by your firm. Windows 8 includes the new Internet Explorer 10. In software- or cloud-based computing environments, you want to make sure that the solutions you use work well with this new operating system. Before using Windows 8 and Internet Explorer 10, check with your solution providers to make sure that they have certified and are now supporting these new products.

A new operating system is not something that necessarily gets advisors very excited. The reality is you want your operating system to allow you to work as efficiently as possible, while being very stable and versatile at the same time. There is no “slam dunk” here, so be sure to do your research in addressing the specific needs of your firm.

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