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Windows 8 Professional and Touchscreens - A Review

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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.
I have been very hesitant about purchasing any windows 8 computers.  There are several reasons, which I am sure many of you have gone over ad infinitum.  Let me delineate my own reasons first for not adopting windows 8, and then for purchasing a Windows 8 laptop.

Why I didn't, and mostly still don't, want windows 8 computers in the workplace:

(You can also see this article I wrote about Windows 8 and the corporate Environment)

Primarily, it is the expense.  When you purchase a new windows 8 system you are only asking for trouble if you don't purchase a touchscreen along with it.  This is not like previous upgrades where you could keep your monitors, keyboard, mouse, etc, and save a ton of money by just purchasing the towers.  Yes it is possible to do, but the end users will complain and complain loudly.  I've worked with several windows 8 machines that did not have touchscreens and was extremely frustrated.

Next there is the learning curve on the part of the user and the support personnel.  You can customize windows 8 and especially windows 8.1 to look almost exactly like windows 7.  And this is what I do for most people.  Then if they express the desire to use the Metro interface more, a quick toggle can change it back.  The point is that learning to use windows 8 is NOT inconsequential for users used to windows 7 or windows XP.  I've made many training videos,  but none can address all the questions a new user may have. I generally spend many hours helping new windows 8 users get used to the new interface and how to use it.

Another issue is the driver problem.  Windows 8 needs many different drivers to work which are different than windows 7 drivers.   So doing a backup of the drivers before you upgrade is generally not an option.  Which means now the person who upgrades the computers has that much more work to do.

This of course leads me to what I believe is the best way to upgrade to windows 8, buy a new computer.  I have done this twice so far,  and it has been fairly successful.  The purchase of a Dell XPS 12 convertible laptop for our office worked out beautifully.  Since,  so far, I am the only one using it,  I haven't had to do any training.

We also purchased a new all in one system for our director.  This was a little more work since I needed to customize it so it looked more like windows 7.  It also meant that I needed to devote more time to training.

The important point here is that both systems are new with touchscreens.  Because of this the system required less fiddling about when we received it.  All we really needed to do was transfer the data.  The fact that both systems had touchscreens made my life as a trainer and support person easier.  The end user needed some training, but there were no complaints about using windows 8 without a touchscreen.  As a matter of fact, I've been asked to order an identical computer as a home machine for my boss.  Having a new system also made things easier.  As with any new system everything is already configured and working and since this was a new Windows 8 system with a touchscreen, I had very little to worry about when it came to software, drivers, and compatibility.  The only things that really gave me any trouble were older hardware accessories that the user still wished to use (like printers and scanners) many of which had no drivers made for them after windows XP.  The solution to this (as in windows 7) was to run the software conduit in windows XP mode.  This generally works, so give it a try if you are having problems.

What Now?

First I still tend toward the Windows 7 Pro systems:

They are tried and true
They are easier to upgrade to
As I said there is a lot less of a learning curve - in turn less training
I also known the system better and am therefore more comfortable with it

When to move to windows 8 and why (IMHO):

Only when all monitors are touchscreens will I consider this as even possible
All Software needs to be compatible
When Windows 7 is no longer a viable alternative

I see windows 8 as more of a consumer system.  It doesn't easily lend itself to the customizations we are used to with Windows XP and now Windows 7.  With BYOD, the end user is pushing the IT envelope more and more and I have attended too many "Consumerization of IT" seminars to dismiss the end users out of hand.  If IT pros take this seriously, then we need to make Windows 7 more alluring for office use or we will end up supporting what is, in the end, a watered down version of windows 7.
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