Windows 8 Users Weigh in on Benefits, Flaws
Scott Bush knew there’d be no hurry to roll out the latest version of Windows when he saw people first trying to use it.
“My monitor is not a touch screen,” said the chief technology officer at credit union core processor Share One in Memphis, Tenn. “And, the initial interface of Windows 8 makes you want to do that.”
The most obvious change in Windows 8 is its touch-optimized screen, based on the company's Metro design language, as the software giant seeks to hold onto end users by competing with Android and iOS mobile operating systems and integrating usage across devices.
That start screen, which displays programs and changing, updated content on a grid of tiles, thrills some and confounds others.
“I like it personally,” said Ben Jordan, vice president of technology services at Synergent, a subsidiary of the Maine Credit Union League and provider of core processing and other services. “I use it at home and find it very exciting and very different. It screams ‘modern.’”
However, modern is likely not what matters most to the end users at the 2,000 workstations that connect to the data center Synergent operates as a Symitar service bureau for 61 credit unions.
Nor to the staff at the $73 million Northern Communities Credit Union in Duluth, Minn., where its information technology manager and security officer, Nic Mathiowetz, is working with Windows 8 behind the scenes but not on the front lines.
“Our staff has to be functional and be able to use the system,” Mathiowetz said. “The OS really is the face of the computer. I wouldn't give them a green screen with DOS and tell them to type on it. It's the same thing with Windows 8." It's going to take time for such a transition to take place.”
“Our biggest number of users is tellers,” added Jordan at Synergent. “They care about speed. Windows 8 is just not as fast as Windows 7, which we are running inside our data center. There are a lot of machines out there in credit unions that could run Windows 8, but people actually using it are few and far between.”
Windows 8 adoption has been closely watched and sometimes jabbed, for instance by archrival Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, who at a June conference touted the 51% adoption rate of Mac users on the new OS X Maverick.
According to NetMarketShare data, as of May 2014, Windows 8 ran on about 14% of PCs running Windows. Windows operating systems are run on 90% or so of all computers.
However, the change is going to come, some observers have pointed out, as machines preinstalled with Windows 8.1, which is the 2014 upgrade, continue to flood the market.
While the user interface can be bypassed by using a classic Windows 7 screen option, many enterprise users are waiting for integration of the new OS with existing hardware such as signature pads and with payment channels including FedLine, ACH and card processors.
That's the case at Northern Communities, where Mathiowetz is waiting for his core processing CUSO, Share One, to make critical connections with the New Solutions platform it provides to more than 100 credit unions.
“Officially, I know New Solutions doesn't support Windows 8 yet,” he said, adding that a few of his machines are running Windows 8 in the back shop for eventual training purposes. “We just converted most of our computers off XP, after the April drop dead date for security reasons, and now we’re onto Windows 7 with the computers we just got as part of our four-year replacement cycle.”
Mathiowetz said that like many credit unions, he would prefer not to be on the bleeding edge, satisfied to wait while the bugs are worked out.
“In this type of industry, you’ve got to have support,” Mathiowetz said. “I just can't justify taking that kind of risk for no good reason.”
Bush at Share One replied, “Nic's dead on. We’re playing catch-up as well with the vendors that are on our support list. It's not the application layer that's the problem. It's using everything that's connected to it that's important.”
That includes security and functionality upgrades and integration with the accompanying versions of Internet Explorer and Windows 2012 server software.
Unlike Vista, which rolled out to much publicity in 2007 and then ultimately went away because of a lack of adoption and much-criticized performance compared with its XP predecessor, Mathiowetz expressed more confidence about the fate of Windows 8.
“We do anticipate going to Windows 8,” he said. “We didn't move to Windows 7 (rolled out in 2009) very quickly either. When you buy new machines, you can do downgrades on the system anyway, and I really don't like having multiple operating systems running.”
He added, “(Windows 8) is not Vista. It seems to be more progressive and stable. I can see over time where people are going to get more acclimated to it.”
Jordan said there needs to be more evaluation of Windows 8.1.
“Software vendors are, by and large, in the design phase of fully leveraging it to provide new functions. Much remains to be seen before wholesale investment in it makes sense.”
That said, Mathiowetz added that in his shop, there are already Windows 8 machines running, including on the optional standard classic desktop view.
“I really don't like the Metro screen,” he said. “But that might be 11 years of IT talking.”