Hardware
11 Reasons Why Financial Advisors Should Consider A Windows 8 Ultraportable
Monday, May 13, 2013 11:10

Tags: advisor technology | laptops | Operating Systems | tablet

 

Every week or two lately, another Windows laptop, tablet, or laptop-tablet is being launched. It's confusing. Since most advisors don't keep up with all the latest changes in computer hardware, here's a list of 10 reasons why a Windows 8 ultraportable makes sense for financial advisors. 

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1.  A Good Way To Try Out Windows 8. Most advisors move slowly on technology adoption, and with good reason. Run what you know works well. An ultrportable is a great way to try out Windows 8 and Microsoft's touch interface. Before replacing or upgrading systems, try out one PC-tablet using Windows 8. 

2.  If you like the iPad, you’ll like this. The Windows touch interface is as good as the iOS interface on Apple’s iPad and other Apple touch products. If you like that easy interface, why not extend it to Microsoft products? Whatever you do on your iPad now, you’ll be able to on your Widows touch device. But you’ll have the added convenience of integration with Microsoft Office and other Microsoft-only apps you use. 
3.  One Less Device At Risk. Say you can eliminate your tablet by buying one of the new Windows ultraportables debuting nearly every week lately. It will be a laptop and a tablet for you. You may be able to do away with one of those devices by replacing it with a ThinkPad Helix from Lenovo, which is expected in the next three weeks. Security risk is lowered with one less device to manage and you benefit from integration of your mobile apps with your desktop apps.
 
4.  Runs Desktop Apps. Professional software for financial advisors is made by small companies catering to a small audience, and older desktop  programs that have no Web version may never get a web version or run on an operating system other than Microsoft. Examples include large programs like Advent Axys and Schwab PortfolioCenter as well as little known apps used for analytics, IRA distribution planning, and tax management.  You’ll be able to continue to run those vintage programs, some of which are very powerful, by sticking with a Microsoft PC.
 
5.  Lighter Than A Laptop. An ultraportable could weighs half as much or less than your current laptop.
 
6.  Battery Life. The Lenovo ThinkPad Helix, which is expected to debut by the end of this month, will have a six-hour battery-life in tablet mode and a 10-hour battery-life in laptop mode. That’s with an i7 2GHz processor that runs at a 3.2 GHz top speed, which in laptop mode is fast enough and powerful enough for a user who regularly creates spreadsheets or runs desktop portfolio management software. So you get better battery life than on most laptops and the option to use the device as a tablet. At the end of 2013, new processors in ultraportables will significantly improve battery life.
 
7.  Inexpensive. Knowing advisors, this should be at the top of the list of requirements. Ultraportables cost half as much as your last laptop but give you as much professor power, RAM and storage or more.
 
8.   Live Tiles. The main page of the Windows 8 operating system (OS) is comprised of 30, 50 or 60 square and rectangular tiles. Each tile is a window into information in your life and business. Some tiles are “live,” streaming Web news from your social networks and displaying news feeds from your favorite sources. That’s nice. Your portfolio management app can create a live tile showing you prices of your largest holding. Your financial planning app can write a live tile displaying how many clients are off plan or have seen a lower net worth than last year. It’s a great way of streaming information.
 
9.   Cooler Presentations And Videos. Since Windows 8 operates on a touch interface as well as mouse navigation, you can use a stylus or your finger to draw on presentations. Dr. Craig Israelsen this past Friday was speaking at a webinar when he circled some key statistics using his mouse to make his point. The circle was crooked because he did it with a mouse. With touch computer, you can draw on slides during a presentation.
 
10.  SkyDrive. SkyDrive is Microsoft’s answer to Dropbox and Google Drive.  You could use Dropbox, Google Drive, or some other online storage center, but Skydrive will be better integrated than any other document storage system you’ll choose.
 
11.  The Enemy You Know. We all grew up hating Microsoft for its dominance and, at times, incompetence. It’s the enemy you know. If you’ve stuck it out with Microsoft this far, switching to Apple’s iOS operating system at this stage makes little sense. While iOS is great, Windows 8 is about as good and merges touch interface with a mouse-driven one.  Google’s operating system, Chrome, and its ChromeBook devices,  simply do not offer the Office suite and off-line capabilities most businesses demand—not yet, at least. While Microsoft is far from perfect, you know how to use it, you know its limitations.

 

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Nokia Lumia 928 Debuts On Verizon May 16, And Will Be An Attractive Alternatve To Advisors Using Windows In The Office
Saturday, May 11, 2013 09:09

Tags: Operating Systems | phones | windows mobile

 

The Nokia Lumia 928, the best Windows phone ever offered by Verizon, the nation’s most reliable 4G wireless network, debuts next Thursday. It’s a big deal.
Windows phones have never been cool and became more and more irrelevant over the last decade. This is expected to be the first cool Windows phone ever, and it’s a major step in Microsoft’s mobile strategy.

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What’s almost too good to be true is that the Lumia 928 will cost just $99 after a $50 mail in rebate, as long as you sign new two-year service agreement. It will be available on May 16 at Verizon stores and  VerizonWireless.com. In addition, for a limited time, you’ll get a $25 credit for Windows Phone apps and games with the purchase of the phone.
 
The tech press is all caught up with the camera on this phone. While the camera is cool, what advisors care most about is the Windows 8 touch interface and the phone’s integration with your office.
 
This phone runs on the Windows Phone 8 operating system, which means your phone can use many of the same programs you use in your office, like Word, Excel, and Outlook. You can access your private cloud and run it from your phone. With Windows 8 integrating touch devices with desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones, your technology gets standardized and, thus, easier to manage and use.
 
For advisors, using the Windows Phone operating system makes your strategy for moving to the cloud less confusing. It’s still confusing, but less confusing because all your computers are using the same operating system and apps. Hallelujah!
 
The Lumia 928 supports wireless charging, near-field communication, near field communication for electronic payments and exchanging data with other devices, and a great camera.
 

 

 

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Windows Ultra-Portables: What Financial Planners And Wealth Managers Need To Know
Saturday, May 04, 2013 16:10

Laptops, desktops and tablets are converging—sometimes colliding—into the single user interface of Windows 8. They’re often marketed as ultra-portables. What is the best choice for you?

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Operating System.
The vast majority of advisors use Microsoft today and you don’t need to change at this point. With Windows 8, a new generation of hardware choices has emerged that, at long last, has responded to Apple and Google.
 
Ultra-Portables For Financial Advisors. If you have not bought a new computer in two years or more, the hot new category of computers—the ultra-portable—is a good choice for many advisors. These devices can pack the processing power and RAM of your current laptop but weigh much less and give you touchscreen-interface. Some ultra-portables, like Microsoft Surface Pro, and the soon-to-be-released Lenovo ThinkPad Helix, are laptop and tablets in one. 

Are You A One-Device Person?
Some people love having one device, while others do not. Logically, having one device should be your goal. The cloud makes your practice more portable, and using a single device for email, practice management and financial advice applications as well spreadsheets, word processing, and research is convenient and saves time. A two-core laptop-tablet is probably not for you if you create documents, files and other content more than 80% of your working day—working in spreadsheets, manipulating pictures, creating publications or editing videos. You will likely be happier with a processor with at least four cores. You’re probably not a one-device kind of person because two-core processors are all that’s available right now in ultraportables. Consider buying a desktop. Your computer is way too important for you not to have the power of a desktop.

Should You Wait Six Months?
Tablets with desktop power are improving fast. The Lenovo Helix—set to be released in mid-May 2013 with a Intel® Core™ i7-3667U processor with two cores and a maximum clock speed of 3.2GHz—is the top of the ultraportable heap this month in tablet-PCs. Late this year, a new generation of quad-core processors for tablet/PCs is expected. With the processing power on those devices, an advisor can run complex spreadsheets, most desktop performance reporting apps, and edit videos using an app like Camtasia Studio. The Helix should be able to meet the processor power needed by most hands-on financial planners, but wait for my review of it in a few weeks. I’m buying a Helix and will let you know. If you are among the 20% of advisors who use their computers creating content most of the time, you should be able to move to a single device at the end of 2013.

What About Surface Pro?
I was really looking forward to the release of the Microsoft Surface Pro (see my review), but I used it for about three months and find it too small as a laptop. If you’re not sitting at a desk and hooked up to an external monitor, it’s tough to read it and a little heavy to hold as a tablet. The Surface Pro might be the right computer for many advisors. You can buy it with up to an Intel Core i5-3317U processor with a top speed of 2.6 GHz.  While less powerful than the Helix, it’s got enough power for many advisors to make it their only computer. Personally, I’m a content creator. I need a computer that lets me type and take notes whether I’m on a big chair, sofa, bed, or a park bench. The Surface Pro screen is too small for me to read and manipulate content on when I’m using it as a laptop. If you hook it up to a monitor, it’s probably fine. As a tablet, Surface Pro’s display is gorgeous and the touch interface is transformative for Windows users. But Surface Pro is a little too heavy in the hand as a tablet. It might be the right computer for a lot of advisors, but for a reporter who takes notes and writes in airports, the Surface Pro 10.6-inch display is too small. I’m looking at a 11.6” tablet-PC now and may ultimately wind up with a 12.5-inch.

 

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Should Advisors Upgrade To Microsoft Windows 8? Are We Witnessing The Death Of The PC?
Tuesday, April 23, 2013 15:01

Tags: microsoft | Operating Systems | windows 8

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?

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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.


Share
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.


Search
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. 
 

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Microsoft Surface Pro Is Revolutionary But Far From Perfect
Tuesday, April 16, 2013 15:05

I’ve been using the Microsoft Surface Pro for two months now. It’s revolutionary but not great.


Surface Pro is both a laptop and tablet in one device. That’s revolutionary. At $1,200, it’s inexpensive for a PC but expensive for a tablet. With a 1.5 GHz Intel i5 processor, it runs the full suite of Microsoft Office products flawlessly and fast. It weighs just two pounds, so you can take it anywhere.

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But the problem is that, as a tablet, it’s not as good as an iPad, because it’s a half pound heavier and has only a four- or five-hour battery life versus twice as much on an iPad. In addition, as a laptop, its 10.6-inch diagonal screen is a little small. Consequently, it’s not perfect as a tablet or as a laptop.

It took me two months to write this review because the Surface Pro is a complicated device, and buying a computer has become so much more complicated. With the introduction of tablet-PCs, tablets convertible into laptops, and touch screen PCs, you really have to pick the right device to match your lifestyle and work style.


Computer-Buying Is More Complicated
The Surface Pro will work well for people who hook their laptops up to an external monitor and also want a tablet for business meetings and on the road. But if you like to lay down on your back and read on your couch or in bed, the Surface Pro’s is noticeably heavier than the iPad. Also, if you like to work with your laptop perched on your knees in an airport or in bed, the Surface Pro will probably be too small and hard to see.

While these issues may seem nitpicky to some, they are practical considerations in buying a computer nowadays. And they are totally new considerations. You are buying a computer that will also be your tablet, which you never did before


Microsoft has indeed done something great by putting a tablet and laptop in one device. In typical Microsoft style, however, it’s complicated but powerful. The next generation Surface Pro will hopefully be easier to hold in your hand and its interfaces will be less klunky.


Windows 8
Surface Pro really has two interfaces: desktop and touch. Microsoft does a poor job of telling its users this. The first time you boot up Surface Pro, no explanation introduces Microsoft laptop users to the touch interface. Microsoft just expects you to figure it out.


 

The user interface of Surface Pro is the Microsoft Windows 8 operating system (OS). The main page you use on the Surface Pro is comprised of 30, 50 or 60 square and rectangular tiles. Each tile is a window into information in your life and business. Some tiles are “live,” streaming Web news from your social networks and displaying news feeds from your favorite sources. That’s nice. But bungling the introduction of the touch interface makes for an awkward handoff between the two interfaces.

 

Surface Pro As A Tablet

To be clear, touch apps look totally different from desktop apps. When you use Surface Pro as a tablet, you use one set of apps that are optimized for touch. Touch apps have a few big buttons on a page and simple navigation.

 

Microsoft has developed a touch version of the desktop Office Suite called Office 365 that you can try out for free. It's great.


Office 365 and touch apps offered in the Microsoft Store work well. The Windows 8 touch interface of the Surface Pro is as easy to use as an Apple iPad’s iOS interface. (If it were not not a half-pound heavier than an iPad, I’d like the Surface Pro as a tablet as much as an iPad.) Point is, Windows 8 on the Surface Pro works great for touch use but the “form factor” of the Surface Pro is inferior to the iPad, which, at 25% lighter, is much easier to hold in your hand.
 

Surface Pro As A Laptop
Then there’s the other interface on Surface Pro. When you use Surface Pro as your laptop computer, also called n ultrabook, you can use the old mouse-driven interface that made Microsoft famous. Moreover, the desktop version of Word, Excel, and the Microsoft Office suite run on the Surface Pro.

 

If you plan to run the desktop version of Office, pay the extra $100 for the 128GB solid state drive rather than the 64GB since Office takes up so much space.

Desktop apps like Office require more processor power than running Web apps, but the Surface Pro has enough power for running most of the programs advisors use. If you want to edit videos, Surface Pro is not for you. But if you want to use Excel, Word, Publisher, Adobe Acrobat Professional—the apps advisors use—Surface Pro has enough processor speed to work just fine. Surface Pro technically meets the requirements to run desktop portfolio management software, such Schwab PortfolioCenter. But you would probably want a more powerful computer than Surface Pro to generate client perfromance reports quarterly.

 

If you use your laptop in bed or anyplace where you won't have it hooked up to a monitor--if you plan to use Surface Pro without a monitor to work on spreadsheets and documents when you're not sitting at a table with the device right in front of you--then this may not be for you.

 

Summing Up
Transitioning hundreds of millions of users from desktop software to touch interfaces is a huge move. Apple has not figured out all the answers. It has no device equivalent to the Surface Pro, which brings together the ability to create content using desktop software with a better way to consume content on a tablet. With a video port that lets you attach a high-definition monitor, a slot for adding a memory card, and a USB 3.0 port for attaching external hard drives and other devices, Surface Pro has revolutionized tablets by making them useable as laptop computers.
 

What users really need is one interface for touch and desktop. That’s not easy to do, however, and it won’t come overnight. In the meantime, Microsoft must do a better job of melding the two interfaces of touch and desktop apps. Some touch apps in the Surface Pro ask you when access a file if you'd prefer to open the file using the desktop app rather than the touch app. That button should be on every file.
 

When Microsoft said it was going to manufacture a tablet-PC, it lifted the hopes of Microsoft users. By taking a page from Apple and making its own hardware as well the user interface, it raised hopes that Microsoft would better connect its software to these revolutionary new tablet-PCs. It’s not worked out like that so far. But the next version of the Surface Pro will probably be lighter. And maybe one of Microsoft’s hardware partners will one up Microsoft.

 

The Lenovo ThinkPad Helix, which is slightly lighter than the Surface Pro when used as a  tablet and comes equipped with an Intel i7 processor, is far powerful than the Surface Pro as a laptop, features a display that’s an inch larger than Surface Pro and has twice the four- to five-hour battery life of the Surface Pro. It's the next step in the evolution of tablet-PCs and just became available for pre-orders.
 

Surface Pro is a good first effort but far from perfect.
 

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