If you try apps like Evernote after experiencing them in other environments, you can begin to appreciate Windows 8’s graphics potential.
After months of hype, Microsoft released Windows 8 -- the latest edition of Microsoft’s operating system -- in late October. Whenever Microsoft releases a new operating system it is a significant event, since between 90% and 95% of all PCs run some version of Windows.
And Windows 8 -- designed to work on desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones -- is much more than an operating system for your PC. By tightly integrating PCs, tablets and smartphones with SkyDrive cloud storage, Microsoft Office 365 (cloud-hosted Office apps, including Exchange Server) and other Microsoft properties, Microsoft now offers a business-class alternative to similar Apple and Google properties.
Yet for Windows 8 to achieve its full potential for financial advisors, it will not be sufficient for advisors to embrace it; custodians, broker-dealers and third-party vendors must embrace it as well. If they do, Windows 8 has great potential to help advisors become more productive, under the right conditions.
In the consumer press, Windows 8 faced criticism related to the initial user experience. Microsoft’s new Metro interface does away with the traditional “Start” button in the lower left corner of the screen, replacing it with a Start screen or page, which can be customized and populated by tiles. Tiles can be links to applications, or other types of information; some “live tiles” can display data that gets updated constantly.
Some critics have viewed the Metro interface as a disadvantage. I don’t think it is, but if you do, you can easily bypass it and work from a screen that is almost identical to the Windows 7 desktop.
One of the reasons for the interface overhaul was to make Windows 8 compatible with touch-screen devices. While this applies primarily today to smartphones and tablets, I am already seeing the release of Windows 8 desktop and laptop computers with touch screens. As these touch-screen PCs become more prevalent, they will revolutionize the way advisors interact with their computers.
One thing to ponder when evaluating Windows 8 -- or, for that matter, any new technology -- is the use case. Consumer reviews of Windows 8 have tended to focus on usability and, in the case of smartphones and tablets, the number of apps available. While these are certainly important, advisors have specific needs that need to be addressed.
Here are a few key things you should understand about how Windows 8 will affect your work.
1. SECURITY IS MUCH BETTER
Windows 8 features a few new security benefits, but one of the most important is Secure Boot. This requires that all applications running during the boot sequence be pre-signed with valid digital certificates. Essentially, it ensures that files loaded during startup have not been tampered with; if a rogue file tried to load, Secure Boot will intercept it. (Bonus: It also starts up much faster than its predecessor, the old BIOS system.)
Microsoft has also beefed up its free security software to include antivirus software. And it has altered the order in which it loads drivers, so that security software runs first; this applies whether you use the free Windows Defender suite or the security suite of your choice.
By acting as a gatekeeper, the Windows 8 app store is itself another security enhancement. If users purchase their software through the online store -- likely, since it will be more convenient -- and if Microsoft does a good job of checking for malicious applications, safety will be further enhanced.
Windows 8 also quarantines applications and Internet Explorer plug-ins, isolating them from the operating system to limit the damage that malicious apps can cause.
There are a number of other security upgrades aimed at enterprises. One of the most interesting is Dynamic Access Control, which goes way beyond what previous versions of Windows could do. Administrators can now deny access to almost any piece of data based upon almost any claim or attribute. For example, you might deny folder access to certain individuals unless they were trying to access the folder locally from a company-issued tablet. Principals might be able to access the same data offsite, but again, only from company issued devices.