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Windows 8/Touchscreens in the corporate environment

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Thomas Zucker-Scharff
Veteran in computer systems, malware removal and ransomware topics.  I have been working in the field since 1985.
There have been a lot of blogs and articles written about windows 8 and its' pros and cons (although it didn't make it to procon.org).  The biggest problems and longest discussions we have about Windows 8/8.1, when it comes to computers in the workplace, concerns the use of touchscreens.

The first problem is that now one needs to buy a new monitor to fully exploit Windows 8.x.  Touchscreens are not inexpensive and there is not a good way to financially explain their necessity.  Windows 8.x seems to be Windows 7 on steroids.  8 has a new interface (metro) that works best with a touchscreen and enhanced security.  8 also makes it significantly more difficult to get to the various nuts and bolts of the windows operating system that we, as the "technical goto" people are used to using.

Not only do touchscreens cost more (you can't just buy a new tower - you need the new screen now), but the paradigm of how we use computers has shifted from being more of an input by keyboard experience to a tactile experience.  

Our office has considered many things when contemplating upgrading to windows 8.x.  For instance, users need to know that there is no viable upgrade path from Windows XP (yes XP since most of my users refuse to move to 7) to Windows 8.x.  It really requires not only new hardware, but in many cases new software.  The cost can be prohibitive.  This is especially true when you are looking at 100s of relatively old XP machines.  Almost all of them are not even upgradable to windows 7.  Most of the software has been upgraded gradually over the years, but not all of it.  Also the move to a new OS means retraining, which means a work slow down, at the very least.  This will cost us additional money.

The decision has been made that the move to at least Windows 7 is necessary (only due to the fact that Microsoft is pulling support for XP, even if they have given people an extra year).  The additional move to Windows 8.x, although not obligatory, is being encouraged.  This leaves most of the people in our position (whether they are systems analysts, sysadmins, or something similar) with the problem of getting ourselves up to speed and our users up to speed.  Then we need to make sure all the necessary software and hardware can support the "new" OSes.

My users are still not completely comfortable with Windows 7.  The users that have Windows 8.x are still getting used to it (although one user is so satisfied he wants an all-in-one for home).  The touchscreen is a problem in and of itself.

Touchscreens have many drawbacks. I have stated some of this already, but it bears repeating:

They can't be replaced as easily as standard monitors mostly because of cost
They get messed up faster than keyboards - although initially people wipe them clean often, after a while they stop completely
They are so integral to the workings of Windows 8.x/Metro interface that without one using the computer becomes frustrating
Although MS finally put most of the Start Menu functionality back in 8.1, The loss is still reverberating and I regularly use fixes you can easily find on the web to make 8 look  and work more like 7 (see the links below).
The learning curve is such that adoption is very slow

On this last item - since the paradigm has shifted with touchscreens, people who use them, but are not yet fully used to them, tend to make more mistakes by touching the screen to point to something and then realizing that they have changed something else as well.

Last, but not least, many of my Windows 7 tools no longer work in windows 8.  This means updating and collecting new tools, not a minor undertaking.

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