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5/21/2013
10:13 AM
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Windows 8 Learning Curve: Two Customers Speak

Microsoft users expect Windows 8.1 to lessen the learning curve for the new OS. But it may not be as bad as you fear, two education customers report.

8 Free, Must-Have Windows 8 Apps
8 Free, Must-Have Windows 8 Apps
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Windows 8 isn't easy enough to use -- even Tami Reller, CFO and CMO of Redmond's Windows division, admits it. If there's one thing users expect from Windows 8.1, the free update coming this summer, it's improved user-friendliness.

Yet according to IT decision-makers at Seton Hall University and Texas's Clear Creek Independent School District (CCISD), adjusting to Windows 8 actually is pretty easy and is worth the effort. Win8 tablets not only offer more value than their competitors, they say, but also serve as genuine laptop replacements.

Still, for many users Windows 8 is that unappealing new OS with a new user interface and an inescapable Live Tiles start screen. But based on the experiences of Seton Hall and CCISD's respective staff members and students, the OS's alleged offenses might be less severe than advertised.

[ Learn from those who have hands-on experience. Read Windows 8: 4 Things I've Learned. ]

Seton Hall CIO Stephen Landry said in an interview that students "took to Windows 8 immediately" last year when the school deployed the OS by outfitting about a third of the freshmen and junior classes with Samsung Series 7 Ultrabooks. Indeed, after collecting input from students, Seton Hall leaders decided to expand the Win8 rollout this year, with all first- and third-year students set to receive a Lenovo Helix, a tablet that docks into a keyboard to double as a laptop. Landry said the Helix balances the tablet apps, battery life, light weight and mobility that students love with the productivity tools a demanding college curriculum requires.

Landry also said modest training efforts were central to Win8's success on the campus, noting that students not only receive a brief introduction to the OS when they pick up their devices but also refine their skills by incorporating their tablets in certain classes, such as an online technology survey course that is mandatory for all freshmen.

Whereas students have encountered little difficulty, Landry stated that faculty and administrators have had a more arduous time adjusting. He said this trouble has been particularly true within the latter group, for which Windows 8 training has not been mandated. "But usually if I spend 10 minutes explaining the navigations," Landry said, "most administrators become comfortable with the new interface."

Similarly, he said, professors have grown happy with Windows 8, noting that he'd definitely know if they weren't. "Faculty can be vocal."

In Texas, CCISD CTO Kevin Schwartz has had a similar experience. His district has been exploring Windows 8 for the last year and plans to deploy 30,000 devices equipped with the OS to students and staff.

Schwartz previously managed iPad deployments for schools but has settled on Dell Latitude tablets for CCISD. "There really is a better device now than there was a couple years ago," he said in an interview, noting that Windows 8 offers the tablet perks of Apple's popular product line while it also supports traditional, productivity-oriented applications such as Microsoft Office.

Schwartz stated that the Latitude tablets were presented alongside iOS and Android options in "an extensive bakeoff" during which staff and students "strongly favored Dell." Most of those involved with the device selection process had used iOS but few had experience with Windows 8, Schwartz said. Still, students were comfortable with Live Tiles and Win8's other new features "within 10 minutes."

"It's not a big barrier," Schwartz remarked, noting that staff initially found Win8's UI "a little harder to adapt to" but that early training efforts, which have dedicated 30 minutes of a two-hour presentation to Win8 navigation and management, are paying off.

It's clear from these campus-based stories that once a little training is made available, users becomes much more comfortable with the new operating system and Win8 has value to offer.

Windows Blue rumors have suggested that Microsoft is entertaining a variety of changes, including a boot-to-desktop option, more prominent tutorials and a restored start button -- albeit one that merely links to the Live Tile screen, rather than functioning as it did in Windows 7. Though Seton Hall and CCISD's respective experiences suggest tutorials alone might do the trick, it's probably a good idea for Microsoft to include all of the above.

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Terabyte Net
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Terabyte Net,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/21/2013 | 5:57:01 PM
re: Windows 8 Learning Curve: Two Customers Speak
The key thing that anyone should take away from this is if you get new ideas a chance and pair them with proper training it is possible to move on to a new product. Too many people refused to spend 10 minutes with Windows 8 and yet in every case where I've deployed Win8, those that take the time to learn have no problems with it.
KSPROULE850
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KSPROULE850,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/21/2013 | 7:27:57 PM
re: Windows 8 Learning Curve: Two Customers Speak
I have never confused "new" with "better". Windows 8 offers a new interface but not a better interface than Windows 7. Not suffering from ADHD, I find the "Live Tiles" very annoying. I want to work with a computer interface that requires the least amount of clicks and keystrokes and is intuitive to use. This means that a good interface should not require any training to learn the "tricks" to access features and programs that were obvious to access in the previous version. The Windows 8 interface is insanely bad.
getut
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getut,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/21/2013 | 7:47:30 PM
re: Windows 8 Learning Curve: Two Customers Speak
There are quite a few people who simply DO NOT WANT to do their daily work in a touch centric interface. Touch is great for media consumption devices but is absolutely horrible for real work by people who use a computer 8 or more hours a day. Keyboard and mouse is simply more efficient and more precise with its context menus (among many other things). Plain and simple, there is more control and power at your fingertips when you AREN'T using your fingertips to put greasy smudges on your dual 24" screens (or larger) . Leave touch for tablets and phones. This is a case where consolidation just doesn't cut it.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
5/21/2013 | 8:10:20 PM
re: Windows 8 Learning Curve: Two Customers Speak
You bring up several great points. For someone like you, Windows 8 doesn't offer any benefits. But I think the OS serve a particular niche already, and if Microsoft handles WIn 8.1 properly, that niche could get a whole lot bigger.

Part of the reason Windows 8 tablets and Ultrabooks are gaining traction with schools and governments involves the value proposition these devices offer: ultra-mobility (important for both students and field employees) and x86 compatibility, all for less than the cost of a laptop. For customers in these spaces, the fact that touch-enabled devices are actually better than laptops for certain applications (collecting data in the field, or in a lab) only amplifies the appeal of devices such as the Latitude.

Most consumers don't work in a field or lab, of course.

Nonetheless, I think Win8's versatility will become more evident in devices this summer and fall. By then, we'll not only have UI refinements from WIndows 8.1 but also more plentiful device varieties, better prices, Ultrabooks with tablet-ish battery life, and performance gains all around, especially graphics. Will these devices inspire the devotion that iPads do? I doubt it. But just like the Latitude 10 is both cost-effective and useful to schools and governments, the next wave of Windows 8 tablets could be cost-effective and useful to consumers who need one device that can be both a tablet and a laptop. Would some people prefer to have both, or even just a laptop? Probably but people can't always afford what they prefer, and the new, improved batch of Windows 8 device might finally offer the price-to-compromise ration that consumers want.

That's not to say Windows 8 criticisms aren't valid. But Windows 8 serves a certain market, even now. By the fall, I think that even though Windows 8 might not be perfect, its "jack of all trades" versatility will, along with improved devices and cheaper prices, make that market even bigger.

Windows 8 will probably never achieve Windows 7's adoption rate-- but it doesn't have to. Businesses still have WIndows 7 at the moment, and until Apple or Google does something dramatic, Windows 8 will be the only device for people who need a tablet that runs x86 apps. By the time businesses are ready for a new OS, Microsoft will have had a chance to demonstrate its value as a desktop OS, or to have moved on to WIndows 9. Other companies - namely Google - could put pressure on Microsoft, but enterprises' current reliance on Microsoft gives Redmond a certain amount of wiggle room.

People will still keeping buying Android and iOS devices. They'll probably buy a lot more of either than they do WIndows 8 devices. But there's a market for Windows 8, and that market could get bigger. Right now, the reasons not to settle for Win8 might outweigh the reasons to go for it. But soon, a lot of the reasons to avoid the OS will have been removed. As long as Microsoft makes the Live TIles usable in Win 8.1, all the conditions are right for adoption to accelerate. If they actually show desktop users some meaningful upgrades along the way, so much the better.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
5/21/2013 | 9:02:17 PM
re: Windows 8 Learning Curve: Two Customers Speak
There is still a wide gulf between people who like touch, and see value in it, and people who see no value in it. That must inform Microsoft's thinking as it moves forward. Otherwise, MS is in denial.

Laurianne McLaughlin
InformationWeek
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
5/23/2013 | 11:56:26 AM
re: Windows 8 Learning Curve: Two Customers Speak
Touch is great for compact mobile devices assuming it fully replaces a mouse/keyboard and is not needed for anything else other than minor data entry. Touch has zero value on the traditional desktop or as soon as a real keyboard and mouse/touchpad are available. Touch is way too limited, shows nicely in trying to right-click anything with my index finger....it just doesn't work. In order to compensate for that the touch centric UIs need to be redesigned, buttons need to be much bigger, forget about drop-downs or check boxes or radio button sets. All these limitations make touch enabled applications so much more complicated to use. Most apps compensate for that by dropping features. Touch has its place and benefits, but they are not on the desktop.
CopyingAppleIsDangerous
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CopyingAppleIsDangerous,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/22/2013 | 2:54:38 AM
re: Windows 8 Learning Curve: Two Customers Speak
When is saw this article, I had to read it twice, because I communicate with people in academia (mostly in Science.Technology.Engineering.Math), and as far as I know, especially those from computer science, Windows 8 is almost universally detested. So I was puzzle why Seton Hall or Clear Creek ISD would be any different.

These people are using tablets.

We have to remember: the problem with Windows 8 was not the tablets. The problem with Windows 8 is that Microsoft attempted to shove a tablet OS down the throats of desktop users.

We desktop users have stated numerous times: If Microsoft had kept Windows 8 where it belongs, on a tablet (and perhaps an occasional ultrabook), there never would have been an issue.

Let's face it: Apple provides at tablet OS. You don't see us complaining about Apple, do you?

We need to be clear.

We hate Windows 8...on ****desktops***

Microsoft ***STILL*** needs to fix the problem. They need to get that Fisher-Price tablet OS off our ***desktops***.
Palpatine
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Palpatine,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/22/2013 | 7:28:21 AM
re: Windows 8 Learning Curve: Two Customers Speak
Stop misinformation.
Learning curve has nothing to do with hierarchical application menu being REMOVED, or with schizophrenically switching with Metro UI popping every time you use an App, or with switching back to 2 decades ago-like mono application interface is the most id1otic thing a GUI designer may conceive as evolution of a nicely multi-windowed system, or with enterprise users uproar for adware based privacy killer environment MS is pushing!

Learning curve has nothing to do with developers outrage for not improving touch Win32 API in a decade and try to push a reduced, crippled API with dictatorial distribution model that allows no real competition to Microsoft software/services.
Learning curve has nothing to do with OEM uproar for the biggest damage ever done to PC market, and for the attempt to unfair competition with Surface (OS cost is larger than typical OEM revenue on hw).

Finally, learning curve has nothing to do with Windows 8 being a deeply flawed product in terms of usability design and business plan.
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
5/23/2013 | 11:50:31 AM
re: Windows 8 Learning Curve: Two Customers Speak
Now, do the same interview with someone who did not give out fancy ultrabooks to people. If I'd get a spiffy device to use I wouldn't care what OS is on it.
Win 8 isn't totally unusable, but in comparison to Win7 it is more difficult to use. In order to fix that one has to install ClassicShell and several other third party tools, grab a functional file browser, install a decent web browser, and spend a lot of time to drop shortcuts to important programs on the desktop because they are no longer easily accessible even after reinstalling a start menu. Plus, plenty of not that old hardware no longer works with Win8. Forget about using a driver for Win7 because Microsoft once again changed how drivers need to interact with the OS for no real reason.
I wonder how many of the students run a Win 7 VM on their ultrabooks to get some work done without the useless foofoo eye candy of Win8 (aka Metro).
HildyJ
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HildyJ,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/23/2013 | 2:52:46 PM
re: Windows 8 Learning Curve: Two Customers Speak
As one who has used tablets since Windows XP Tablet Edition, I find Win8 to be a generally better OS than Win7. I have a Win8 tablet (the Thinkpad Tablet 2) and my son has a Win8 laptop. Both of us had experience on Win7 and both of us got up to speed relatively easily.

There is, however, a major obstacle to Win8 that Win8.1 will, hopefully, resolve. Windows has always had touch features embedded since Vista. However they were pen-centric, not finger-centric. They were also behind the scenes unless you had a pen enabled PC. Win8 exposed these and added to them but they also put them front and center on all PCs and seemingly forgot about the old apps.

I see the touch apps as fundamentally different than many traditional Windows apps. In general, for content consumption, I use touch apps; for content creation, I move to the desktop and use traditional apps.

My hope is that Win8.1 will recognize this dichotomy and resolve it. I would like to see a taskbar added to the the start screen and have the start screen apps treated like a desktop with widgets was in Win7 so that I can open traditional apps on top of it.

Note that when selecting hardware, to fully appreciate the power of Win8 requires a PC with a pen as well as touch. There are tablets and convertible laptops (where the screen can fold over the keyboard to make a thick tablet) which do this. A pen is as accurate a pointer as a mouse and allows inking in many programs, including the virtual keyboard, which does handwriting recognition very well.

P.S. I also hope they fix the virtual keyboard. The Tablet Input Panel from XP/Vista/7 was so much nicer - better looking and more functional.
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