For advisors, perhaps the greatest frustration with iOS is the lack of native support for Microsoft Office software. Mac versions of Office are available, but they are generally less robust than the PC versions. Windows 8 offers a unified Office experience: Whether you use a phone, a tablet, or a PC, you get built-in support for Office apps. Furthermore, Window 8 and the upcoming Office 2013 integrate tightly with SkyDrive, Microsoft’s cloud file storage system. If you save an Office document to SkyDrive, it is easily accessible from any Windows 8 device.
Among tablets, the iPad is a great device for consuming data, but it is much less adept at creating it. With a Windows 8 tablet and Office, creating content become more practical.
3. THERE ARE SOME OTHER SWEET EXTRAS
Windows 8 offers a few other features that should appeal to advisors.
Live tiles: These have a lot of potential, once developers within the industry start to take advantage of them. Unlike iOS icons, live tiles can contain information that updates in real time. Think about the power of custom tiles that contain alerts when your best clients email you, or when funds are deposited in a client account. Tiles can also contain photos and graphics.
Customization: This is another Windows 8 strong suit. Advisors can decide exactly what they want to see on the initial page of their phones, tablets and PCs. All can be configured with the same tiles, or each can be configured differently, as the user wishes.
Integrated contact management: The included People app can pull in contact information from all of your online sources, including Outlook, Gmail and LinkedIn. As these and other capabilities become available to the CRM applications that advisors use, staying up to date on your relationships should be simplified.
Graphics: The improved graphics capabilities of Windows 8 are not yet fully appreciated in the marketplace, because there are few advisor-specific Windows 8 applications available today. But if you try apps like Evernote in Windows 8 after experiencing them in other environments, you can begin to appreciate the potential. I did preview one early advisor-facing Windows 8 app: FinFolio’s portfolio management software. The graphics are amazing. As other developers come to market with Windows 8 apps, I expect that advisors will be anxious to use them.
4. APPS ARE STILL LIMITED
While Windows 8 is very appealing, a few cautionary notes are in order. App availability is an issue: To reap the full benefits of Windows 8, developers have to write or rewrite apps to take advantage of its abilities. This is currently a work in progress. There is also the issue of compatibility with the applications you currently use. Make sure that your vendors, B-Ds and custodians are Windows 8 compatible.
There are other issues. Due to the level of customization that Windows 8 offers, there is somewhat more of a learning curve than there is for iOS. A little training can go a long way toward alleviating any initial apprehension.
Some critics also view 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.
There is also a great deal of confusion surrounding the Microsoft Surface tablet and other similar devices. The Surface tablet runs on an ARM processor, the same processor that powers most popular mobile devices today. This means that the Surface tablet can only run applications written for an ARM processor -- not software written for the Intel processor powering your PC. Your Windows-compatible programs will not run on the current Surface tablet. (The Surface Pro, due for release in early 2013, will run on an Intel processor, so it will be able to run most current Windows applications.)
5. THE LONG-TERM PROGNOSIS IS GOOD
I expect that advisors will gravitate to Windows 8 sooner rather than later. I know from the recent Financial Planning Technology Survey that 37% of respondents still operate one or more computers running Windows XP, an operating system that launched in August 2001. What these users may not know is that on April 14, 2009, Windows XP reached the end of its mainstream support period. Microsoft currently provides monthly security updates for XP, but free technical support, warranty claims and design changes are no longer offered.
Not convinced? Be aware that on April 8, 2014, all support for XP security patches and hotfixes is scheduled to end. At that point, one could argue that it would be irresponsible to use an XP machine in a business setting.
I believe that the release of Windows 8 will encourage a new round of technological innovation for advisors. Those who adapt the system sooner are likely to be the greatest beneficiaries of these innovations.