PC sales suffered their steepest quarterly drop in 20 years, plunging 14% in the first quarter of 2013 versus the same period a year ago, according to IDC, and Microsoft’s Windows 8 is being blamed by many analysts for the slump. Meanwhile, today Microsoft announced it would bring back its Start button in Windows 8.1, in an effort to placate critics of the Windows 8 interface. What is going on? Are we witnessing the death of the PC? Should financial advisors upgrade to Windows 8?
Let’s take the most important question first: Should you upgrade to Windows 8? The answer is "maybe."
If you are working in Office every day and don’t care to use touch capabilities, then you may not need to upgrade to Windows 8. The main difference between Windows 7 and Windows 8 is the touch interface.
The touch interface can be used on computers running XP or Windows 7 by upgrading to the Windows 8 operating system, but few advisors are going to go out and buy a touch-screen display in order to run Windows 8 on their desktops and use the touch features. So let's assume you are looking at upgrading your desktop computer to Windows 8 but won't use the touch screen features. Does it pay for you to upgrade?
Some nice features in Windows 8 are not in Windows 7. They may be enough to make upgrading worthwhile to you.
One nice feature in Windows 8 is how you can share ideas with your social networks. A “Share” button—dubbed a “charm” by Microsoft—pops up anytime you slide your cursor to the right side of the screen. While you cannot yet share LinkedIn updates from the Share charm, you can share status updates to Facebook and Twitter. That’s nice.
For advisors interested in social networking and content marketing, the sharing feature could be a real benefit and may even spur you to share twice as often with prospects and referrals sources because it is so much easier to do.
Another nice feature in Windows 8 that’s not in Windows 7: the Search charm. Wherever you are in Windows 8, you can access the Search charm by sliding your cursor to the right side of the screen. When you click or touch the Search charm, a dialog box appears for you to input a search term. If you are in Word or Excel and you hit the Search charm, it will search your documents for a term. If you are browsing the Internet, the term will be searched using your search-provider preferences. If you're in the app store, it will search for an app. That is very convenient and a real improvement.
If you don’t care to use a touch interface and you don’t care about social networking and don’t need a more user-friendly search capability, then you do not need to switch to Windows 8.
But if you are committed to using PCs for the next few years, then upgrading to Windows 8 makes sense. Eventually, you will use a touch device or want the other new features offered by Windows 8. So you might as well bite the bullet now.
I describe it as "biting a bullet" because most people do not like change. Since Windows 7 is working fine, it's easy to do nothing. Why learn a new system and possibly disrupt things? If you feel that way, wait another three or six months and you'll be okay. But if you want to share more socially for content marketing and networking reasons, then upgrading makes sense.
I‘ve been using Windows 8 for two months on a Surface Pro, which is a tablet and laptop in one. On my desktop, which I use for video editing and other content creation tasks, I use Windows 7. But I’m going to migrate to Windows 8 in the next couple of weeks to get the social and search benefits on my main computer. I’ll let you know how it goes.
By the way, I don’t think we are witnessing the death of the PC. We are evolving into a new era that makes PCs less important. If you do not create content using Excel, Word, Publisher and Office daily, PCs now compete against the Android, Apple iOS and BlackBerry operating systems. But if you create content all the time in Office, then Windows 8 is still the best choice for you. And most advisors create content often enough to make sticking with Windows the best choice as it evolves by embracing touch, gestures, and other modes of navigation.
One final thought: Advisors who work daily in Excel, Word, Publisher and Office can consider buying a new touch screen PC, ultrabook or tablet, and that’s a great way to introduce yourself to Windows 8. Once warning: Don’t buy too small a display unless you plan on attaching the device to an external monitor. I recently reviewed the Surface Pro, which has a 10.6-inch display, and I find it too small to work on without a monitor unless it is sitting in front of me on a table.