Writing a monthly technology column for NZ Business means thinking about the needs of owners and managers of companies operating at the economy’s sharp end. There’s a clear practical focus.  The readers want to know about what works: what saves time and money.

Windows 8 features in October’s magazine, which is now on bookstands but sadly not online. I describe Windows 8 as good PC operating system choice for small businesses, especially those already committed to Microsoft.

Works the same everywhere

Windows 8 is an even better choice for companies using, or planning to use, Windows tablets and smartphones. Workers will see the same user interface across all three device types and core applications will look and feel the same.

That’s good. However, unlike the last two Windows upgrades, Windows 8 is disruptive. Workers who switch will see unfamiliar screens. They’ll need to learn new ways of doing things.

If you’re in business, expect a productivity hit while workers find their way around. Consider investing in training.

Worth the effort

Despite the disruption, the move is well worth the effort. After a month using Windows 8 I find it productive, possibly more productive than Windows 7. I’m more able to focus on the task in hand – all that distracting stuff is pushed further into the background.

Windows 8 loads faster than Windows 7 and you can sync key data between all your devices. It manages laptop battery life better, handles WiFi better and serves up graphics faster. It comes with Internet Explorer 10, which is a huge leap forward compared to IE 9. I also found it transfers files between computers and back-up drives faster.

There’s improved security and new file management tools. Geeks might not like everything they find in Windows 8, but for those of us who just want to get things done, it is another step in the right direction.

Teething troubles

Mind you, it isn’t perfect. I still struggle with aspects of the user interface. There are times when I mean to click to the start screen and accidentally open Internet Explorer. And alt-tabbing becomes a chore because you can’t close Windows 8 system apps, so I often end up with a long string of opened windows.

My NZ Business story said Windows 8 represents a huge gamble for Microsoft. Others have said the same since I wrote those words. It may not pay off for the company in the long-term.

Windows 8 is not an iPhone. Few fans will queue overnight to buy it when it goes on sale on October 26, yet it is a smart buy for New Zealand businesses wanting a quick technology refresh. After the settling-in period it’ll make you more productive.

Microsoft plans to sell upgrades to the new version of Windows for just US$40 when it first goes on sale. If you already use Microsoft products in your business, that’s money well spent.

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