Monthly Archives: June 2013

What Microsoft did (and didn’t) learn from the auto industry / New PC for business Dilemma? / Why retail isn’t always best… And, will “Windows Blue” cure the Windows8 Blues?

One phenomenon we continue to observe here at RiteTech is what we call the “New PC Dilemma”.  Specifically, how a business handles PC replacements and upgrades during the “Windows 8” era.

At RiteTech, we offer a very simple guideline here.  “Just say No” – to Windows8.  Seriously.  There are only 1-2 very limited exceptions to this guidance, that will typically not apply in 99% of business scenarios.

First, let’s briefly recap the many reasons why we believe “No” is the right answer to Windows8.  Then, we’ll further describe what to say “Yes” to.

Windows8 (amazingly) removes the familiar “Start” menu and desktop graphical metaphor that pretty much everyone using a PC has been trained in, and grown accustomed to in the past 18+ years, since Windows95.  (Wow, 18+ years?  Has it really been that long?  I remember waiting in line at a “midnight madness” shopping event at a Staples in College Park, Maryland on the night that Windows95 was released to the general public… Ah, memories… but, I digress…)

The most common adjective that we continue to hear over and over when either end-users – or, even experienced IT technicians and systems administrators – attempt to describe getting used to Windows8 is – “frustrating.”.  We’ve heard multiple times from clients who have purchased Windows8 (or from their staffs, who have done the same) – the very long litany of complaints and frustrations about it, from everything about its user interface, to the fact that it seems to have incompatibility and reliability issues.

Microsoft’s stubborn, technically-unnecessary, and horribly wrong-headed decision to so radically alter Windows8’s default graphical environment has been – and is being – called many things – including “the worst new product fiasco since New Coke” (one of my favorites) – as well as simply, well, “essentially unsellable” in a business scenario – which is how it’s starting to look across business and corporate environments.  And, for good reason.  Most businesses now look at PCs as a necessary utility or a commodity – almost like purchasing a vehicle.  First of all, most businesses typically don’t want to purchase new vehicles until or unless they absolutely need to.  End users (e.g. individual drivers) may choose to “upgrade” or “get a new car” for personal satisfaction reasons (or maybe just to show-off?), but there typically isn’t the same motivation in a business setting.  Continuing that analogy, a business doesn’t want to purchase a vehicle and then find out that many of the standard controls they’ve gotten trained and used to – such as the gas and brake pedals, the ignition slot, etc. – have all mysteriously and inexplicably either been entirely removed – or placed in strange, awkward, different locations – or are operated differently.

In fact, when placed in that kind of a situation – where the driver of a new vehicle has to try to familiarize themselves with radically different controls (while, most likely, being in a hurry to get somewhere – I’m sure) – guess what term they probably would use to describe the experience?  “Frustrating.”.

“Frustrating” is probably not the term that you want your latest software product to be well-renowned for.  And yet, here we are with Windows8 – the essentially unsellable, ill-advised, very difficult to love Operating System.

So, what do we do about Windows8 – this horrible, horrible release of Windows that is very hard to love?

The good news is that there are still many well-made business-class computers that are available to be purchased new, from their respective manufacturers with Windows 7 Professional.  That is precisely what most businesses will want to do, who need to purchase a new PC.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this approach as long as the manufacturer and specifications of the PC are carefully chosen.

Note that this pretty much rules out purchasing PCs in a retail setting – since Windows7 has essentially been removed from the retail channel altogether at this point.  The only exception you may run into may be some refurbished PCs, or possibly an occasional clearance item here and there still lurking – however, for the most part, you will not see Windows7 PCs – or even the old Windows7 upgrade or Operating System discs – available in the retail channel anymore.

Another option is potentially to go the “non-PC” route.  This could include tablets, Apple devices (e.g. Macs or iPads), or related.

To be clear, at RiteTech, we don’t advocate people jumping completely to Apple just because of Windows8 – although there are a lot of positives to the Apple platform.  However, Windows7 Professional on a well-designed, well-equipped, and well-supported PC will honestly solve most business needs quite well, for a very long time.

Now – there are 1-2 exceptions of where Windows8 may be a good fit.  These, not surprisingly, would be on Windows Tablet PCs or other touch-sensitive devices- such as Microsoft Surface – which is really the type of hardware that Windows8 was designed to operate on.  We’ve work with helping to set clients up with Microsoft Surface and Windows8, and they were extremely pleased with it for their specific projects that called for Windows tablet computing.

However – for the vast majority of business-related tasks and business environments that don’t involve regular touch- or tablet-based work styles – the traditional approach of Windows 7 is definitely the way to go.  And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, at all – just like there was absolutely nothing wrong with “Classic Coke”.

Lastly – the latest rumors about Microsoft is that their next release of Windows – Code Named “Blue” – or Windows 8.1 – and rumored to be available late this year – will supposedly re-add the “Start” button.  Whether or not it re-adds the full, traditional Windows7 Desktop or Start MENU experience, remains to be seen (I certainly hope so!).  However, it will be interesting to see how things progress once it is released – e.g. will it be embraced and cheered – or will it simply be shrugged off as “too little, too late”, particularly with trends towards non PC-platforms (e.g. smartphones and tablets) already accelerating.

Happy computing to all…

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How to pick a “good” display: And, when (and why) 2 Screens are better than one: Pretty much, always!!

Ahoy-hoy!,

Being on the road for a few days, I’m once again reminded about the “taken-for-granted” ness that we sometimes feel when we “only” have access to a single display device.

As some background information – even though RiteTech/ModernHOA.com is a small company, pretty much everyone in our organization has at least two display devices (or is given the option for same) as part of their standard-issue company equipment.  For desktop PC users, that means two displays.  For notebook PC users, it means the option of plugging in their own (or a company-provided) display.  Why is that?

Well – in a quick simple word, it’s the productivity.  One of the discoveries I made years ago when I worked as an IT Security Administrator for  a quasi-governmental financial services organization (which also had dual displays for most staff at the time – at this was years ago, when it was not common to do this) – is that in many roles, providing this type of amenity more than paid for itself in terms of improved employee productivity.  It’s similar to providing more “desk space” in a traditional sense – if a person has more screen real estate to spread their work out on, they can typically get more accomplished.  Granted, the person or resource in question also needs the proper attitude, motivation, support, and training/supervision to make the most of these features.  However, when used properly, the dual-display can be a game changer in terms of productivity.

Even in situations where having a dual-display is not practical – a few tips we’ve learned along the way can help even when picking out a standard (primary) display.  One thing we’ve learned is to pay close attention to the display resolution.  This determines how small or “fine” the display elements, or dots, are displayed on the screen – similar to how small, or fine, little grains of sand (or other material) may be in the physical world.  The smaller (or finer) the resolution, the more crisp and precise the display elements can be.

Lately, the best (or finest) displays tend to be ones made by Apple – whether it is in their built-in Retina iMac computers, or their external displays (like Thunderbolt).

However, there are many other very good non-Mac displays out there, both in laptops and traditional displays.  Sony laptops often tend to have very good, fine built-in displays.  When choosing an external (traditional) display, also confirm that it supports all of the latest connection standards, such as HDMI or DVI.

Happy computing…

Will tablets be the end of PC’s and Mac’s as we know it? Not Exactly…

Some of you may well recall that I was one of the so-called “Tablet Skeptics” when the iPad was first released. As the computing industry begins to enter a new phase where purchases of new tablets may exceed traditional PCs and Macs – which will occur either this year (2013) or next year (2014) depending on who you ask – I think it is an appropriate time to reflect on the trends that seem to be driving this phenomenon.

First, I personally don’t believe that tablets or other mobile devices will ever fully replace traditional desktop or laptop PCs. However, I do believe they will continue to *displace* them in selected functions, particularly for personal and portable computing.

While tablet computing power and display technology will continue to evolve to the point where most limitations with current tablets are addressed, at the end of the day, there are still several practical limitations of using a tablet to create new content, rather than to “access”, “read”, or “consume” content. In addition, physical security and maintenance of the devices can be a challenge, particularly in a business or corporate environment.

While trends such as B.Y.O.D. (Bring Your Own Device) will continue to push the “tablet envelope” and I’ll certainly concede that we’ve probably hit the “peak oil” moment in terms of traditional PC or Mac purchases within mature markets for a while, desktop and laptop PCs will never fully go away. Sometimes, you just really want (or need) a full PC (or Mac) to get your work done efficiently.

More next time…

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