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When it comes to Windows, coming up with the old, with… what?

My Computerworld colleague Steven Vaughan-Nichols last month saw Windows 11 as the end of the old-school Windows desktop and argued that Windows 11 is a pointless upgrade. While I agree that Windows 11 leaves me wondering exactly why I need to upgrade to it, I’m not sure it’s the end of desktop hardware. (It may play a role in sparking interest in tablets – however – more on that below.)

In fact, we may already be seeing Windows 10 As the latest old school desktop operating system.

Along with just about every other business, small and big, I’m having a hard time bearing the high cost of upgrading to Windows 11. (I’m not talking about software; it’s the hardware authorization of the TPM chip and processor that would be the biggest blocker because I had to buy a new one if I wanted to. In upgrading the bulk of my office.) Even at home, I only have one device—Microsoft’s latest Surface Pro 7—that can handle the upgrade. Other computers – another laptop and a home desktop – can’t make the jump, and I don’t want to use workarounds to get around the security requirements.

With software vendors still slow to offer updates to Windows 11—for example, Sage Accounting doesn’t appear to officially support Windows 11—it’s no surprise that in six months there’s still a big push to migrate to 11.

Side note: When I use Windows 11, the newly centralized menu is not much of an issue. I intentionally left it in the middle to see how it affects my routine, from changes to the taskbar to the menu system. I’ve found that after years of clicking on the left side of the screen to start the menu option or turn off the computer, it’s obviously going to take some time to retrain my brain if I plan on keeping it that way. For those for whom this is a big problem, there are a number of third-party tools and workarounds to move that list around and make Windows 11 more convenient for old Windows users:

  • Start11 – If you already own Start8 or Start10, you can upgrade to Start11.
  • Github tool to make the taskbar match the behavior of Windows 10.
  • Explorer patcher, another way to make Windows 11 taskbar work like Windows 10.
  • OpenShell for Windows 11, which gives you the classic menu.

On the forums, I started seeing more people asking which laptop they should buy to replace their old trusty hardware. Oftentimes, even though they have an older desktop that works well with Windows 7, 8, or 10, they want a laptop on the go. But after being asked about specific needs, their answers point to a type of tablet, not a laptop, as an ideal device for searching, reading news, and answering emails on the go. There are really only two platforms: iPads or various Android tablets. As a previous owner of several Surface devices (and as the current owner of the Surface Pro 7), I can say that they are great portable units for IT admins; They allow me to work efficiently and effectively remotely, logging into other workstations, servers, cloud platforms, etc. But if I’m waiting at the doctor’s office, I’m more inclined to browse on my iPhone than bring a laptop.

When the pandemic hit two years ago and we had to make sure people could work from home, I quickly found that some people in the office had no computer or laptop at all — they used a tablet to surf the web and check email. I recently loaned a Chromebook to a friend who still uses the foldable phone. (She needed a device for Zoom meetings with her doctor.) I found that it doesn’t need a Windows laptop at all; Equipped her Chromebook with a supported browser and webcam and that’s all she needs.

So if you need a mobile device and in the past you were going to the store and buying a laptop, reconsider your needs. Ask yourself: What do I really want to do with this device? Want something that’s easy to put in my bag or carry around with me? Do I want to be able to entertain myself while in waiting rooms and doctors’ offices? Am I planning to travel more now and don’t want to have to remember a lot of power cords and adapters? If you’ve ever traveled and realized you’ve forgotten the charging cable for your laptop, you’ll quickly find that each manufacturer annoyingly uses unique power sources that make it nearly impossible to find a matching cable at a hotel gift shop or nearby tech store. Traveling with a tablet, however, makes it easy to find a suitable USB cable.

Bottom line, if technology is the “thing” you love most that needs replacing, stop and think about your technology “need” instead. Replacing it with a newer version of what you have now may not be what you need to move forward.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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