After the frenzy of new hardware introductions in 2012, it is time to get down to business and use these tools for the benefit of our clients and ourselves this year. Most hardware products that were shipping in February of 2012 have been replaced with an updated model or a radically better piece of hardware to do the job.
For example, there is not a single phone or tablet that I’m recommending right now that was available a year ago. The same is largely true for desktops, portables, monitors, scanners, servers, firewalls…you get the idea.
Using the new hardware to our advantage, and making the right strategic choice of technology is critical to maximizing business results. What can we gain by using touch screens? Where does it make sense to use tablets? Does everyone need portable technology to do their job effectively? What is the ROI like? Will we be able to see tangible results by making hardware changes? What about software to support this new hardware?
As 2013 unfolds, we’ll see new software to support the release of Windows 8 and Office 2013 plus many new products that have merit on their own.
One of the more difficult transition decisions will be to embrace touch screen technology. Almost as difficult is learning to use gesture based touchpads instead of the mice that we are now are quite comfortable to use. Microsoft has taken the position with Windows 8 that laptops and tablets should use touchscreen and even desktops can be driven by touch although mouse support is included.
Further, support for touch pads, handwriting script and voice are all more sophisticated and reliable on Windows 8, providing a new way to interface with your computer. On the other hand, Apple is taking the position that a desktop computer is better off without touch and that a mouse is still your best friend…although my personal preference is still for a two button mouse on OS X, instead of the one button approach preferred by Apple engineering.
Not supporting touch in desktops is particularly interesting given the touch culture of the iPad, iPod and iPhone. Just because we have the engine and transmission to run faster with touch in Windows 8, doesn’t mean we have the fuel of new applications to drive the experience.
However, if the changes in applications like Skype are any indication of the future of Windows applications, you can count me in for this new way of working. Touch screens and touch pads will also force us into changing our desks, monitors, and keyboard set up, which is more expense, too.
The tiles and the icons of the new Windows 8 are active, meaning they display content in addition to simply being an icon. This subtle change lets you see summarized or key information in a scrolling display without ever entering the application creating an active dashboard. We have some concern for the potential security issues, but in the big picture, the scrolling icons are certainly productive.
This feature alone has driven me to new hardware that can support Windows 8 mobile on a new generation phone. This touch screen user experience with Windows 8 puts us in a position we have to consider the end-user hardware, even if we strategically say “no” to upgrades. Windows 8 performs slightly faster than Windows 7 on the same hardware, but what a difference touch screens and Solid State Drives (SSDs) make in the experience.
Another notable Windows 8 feature is Windows to Go, which allows a complete machine to be installed on a USB stick, accommodating contractors and temporary workers on their own equipment. This technology further supports a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategy.
Servers, SANs and their supporting disks, switches and more have also had notable hardware ugprades during the past year. Even if you take everything to the cloud, these data centers have to frequently update their hardware to remain competitive, and this will affect your monthly costs.