Michael Miller, author of "Microsoft Windows 7 Your Way" discusses the end user support issues that IT managers face with Windows 7, the potential productivity gains, and how the OS stacks up on security.
InformationWeek SMB: What about the taskbar? That's a feature that's more than an incremental improvement. What should IT managers be anticipating in terms of support issues and needs?
Miller: The taskbar is one those things that is gonna have a little bit of a learning curve. Yeah you do have to train everybody, but once they are trained on it, they're gonna love it. They're gonna be a lot more productive. Basically what you have with the new taskbar is the ability to dock all your favorite, your most used applications and documents right to the taskbar as opposed to having to get to them from the start menu. As an IT administrator, you could build a taskbar that includes all the applications that your users use and they may never have to go to the start menu. It takes a little bit of getting used to and things look a little bit different so there's a little bit of a learning curve, but once you get past that learning curve it really speeds up operation for the end user.
Miller: Another thing that takes some getting used to is that Windows 7 uses virtual libraries - virtual folders that they call libraries. What that means is that when you open up the documents folder, you're not really seeing the documents folder. You're seeing all the documents stored in various locations on an end users hard drive or for that matter across the network. That allows you to build libraries around certain types of documents, around projects, clients, teams, or whatever. For the end user it makes a whole lot of sense; they don't know whether this is stored in this folder or that folder, this shared drive or that one, they just have a my documents folder with everything they need. It makes it easier for end users to store and find documents, but there's a little bit of a learning curve to get over the old way of thinking in terms of where things are stored.
InformationWeek SMB: What about shortcomings of features that IT managers aren't going to like?
Miller: One feature that is probably not gonna be of interest at all to the IT community is the HomeGroup feature. It's provides a simpler way of networking together computers; it really simplifies the interface and the operation for end users. For organizations without any IT support that could be appealing, but the problem is that you can only use HomeGroup on Windows 7 computers. So if you've got a mixed network - and most businesses do - you can't use it. That's probably my biggest disappointment with it Windows 7. I really like this HomeGroup feature and I can't use them on my computers because not every machine I have runs Windows 7.