Touching Benchmarks for Win 8 Migration

Curtis Franklin Jr., Executive Editor | 11/9/2012 | 26 comments

Curtis Franklin Jr.
New components have a knack for showing off the weakness of old components. That's a lesson some early adopters are learning through Windows 8.

It's no secret that the new Windows 8 interface is optimized for touchscreens. It's also no secret that most enterprise customers aren't going to run out and scrap their thousands of personal computers just to let employees start pawing the displays. Instead, most companies will make use of existing systems, both desktop and laptop, and phase in Windows 8 on a combination of their legacy hardware and new systems. On both categories of client hardware, there's a a single component that will have a huge impact on the quality of the user experience.

I'm talking about the touchpad, of course. Barring a touchscreen, a touchpad is the best way to use the tile-based New Windows interface. Some of the existing laptops in your enterprise fleet will have touchpads that work with Windows 8, though the reality is that many of them will be marginal for a good Win 8 user experience. You'll give these to users who are the first adopters (but not the high-status corporate users) and they'll figure out how to make things work while bad-mouthing Windows 8 to anyone who'll listen. The more interesting decisions will come when you decide to add new machines to the enterprise client fleet.

There has been a list of component specifications and qualities that IT departments traditionally use in making purchase decisions for client fleet purchases. CPU, graphics, RAM, hard disk capacity, and I/O functions topped the list, and here's the most important hardware note you'll get for your migration to Windows 8: It's time for your list to change.

To begin with, CPU speed no longer matters. That's a hard admission for me to make, since I started my career running Whetstones and Dhrystones on computers to compare fixed- and floating-point performance. Today, though, every CPU you're going to find in a laptop or desktop computer sold for enterprise use is fast enough. The same is broadly true of graphics performance, though you'll want to make sure that your system is optimized for virtual desktop graphics. A GPU is an important piece of the puzzle, and Open GL/X Windows support is critical. RAM? Get lots. Hard drive? Not nearly the concern in enterprise machines as in consumer computers, so feel free to go smaller. I/O? Look to your security standards for guidance. That leaves touchpad resolution and quality as the key differentiators you'll want to be looking at in new machines.

Gesture-capable touchpads are one of the components that are sufficiently new to be un-benchmarked in most organizations. What does that mean? It means calling up your favorite hardware vendors, ordering examples of all the candidate laptops (or desktop computers) and setting up usability benchmarks. Yes, it will cost a few dollars in resources and time, but the results for Windows 8 productivity are sufficiently high to make it worthwhile to go through the effort. Windows 8 is here. User productivity is critical. So testing to get this one component right is absolutely critical.

It's been a while since we had a piece of client hardware for which performance was critical. Now we do. Dust off your testing group and put them to work -- your bottom line will be the long-term winner.

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The_Phil   Touching Benchmarks for Win 8 Migration   12/17/2012 9:10:12 PM
Re: Touchpads
I had to do one and thought it was a daunting task.

But once I found a pretty good online tutorial, it was rather simple.
With Mac's, you just have to know which cover to remove.
batye   Touching Benchmarks for Win 8 Migration   12/3/2012 11:46:53 AM
Re: Touchpads
it all depends on how well manual for repairs written... myself I would have a big problem ipgrading memory and hard drive in the Imac all in one unit...
The_Phil   Touching Benchmarks for Win 8 Migration   11/30/2012 10:41:11 AM
Re: Touchpads
I guess that's why. I once tried replacing an LCD display and made more of a mess. Guess that's why I haven't tried it again. I left it to the repair gurus!
SaneIT   Touching Benchmarks for Win 8 Migration   11/30/2012 7:56:26 AM
Re: Touchpads
No, you don't need a space suit or a clean room, just a clean surface to work on and a somewhat steady hand.  It's not all the scary, if you've ever replaced a laptop display you can do a touch screen.
The_Phil   Touching Benchmarks for Win 8 Migration   11/29/2012 2:03:43 PM
Re: Touchpads
Interesting. Good to know that it can be done. Do you have to wear a spac suit to do it? :)
SaneIT   Touching Benchmarks for Win 8 Migration   11/29/2012 7:50:48 AM
Re: Touchpads
Yes, you can.  We replace smart phone screens on an weekly basis.  Either because they were dropped, chipped or just gave out.  It will actually be easier to replace a large touch screen than a small one but it won't be as simple as replacing a monitor.
SaneIT   Touching Benchmarks for Win 8 Migration   11/29/2012 7:49:21 AM
Re: Touchpads
Well, for starters oils on the skin, food, coffee, soda, heavy pens, books, binders, coffee mugs.  I can think of all kinds of ways to accidentally destroy a touch screen, but even with the most delicate user the oils in your skin and electronic fatigue will kill them eventually.  Think of the average computer monitor, most of them sit there year after year glowing happily, but then you get some that fail due to either poor build quality, environment, electronic fatigue or stupid accidents (I've seen one claim the life of a goldfish).  Now imagine that monitor closer to a worker and the worker touching it all day, the failure rate is bound to go up. 
Syerita Turner   Touching Benchmarks for Win 8 Migration   11/28/2012 8:06:26 PM
Re: Touchpads
You have a great point SaneIT it would be rather costly to replace an entire touch screen. Question is how would they break the touch screen in the first place. Nevertheless, replacement costs are very important when you are talking about multiple machines and not just one or two so I really do see your point.
The_Phil   Touching Benchmarks for Win 8 Migration   11/28/2012 12:51:15 PM
Re: Touchpads
Can you even do that yourself?
SaneIT   Touching Benchmarks for Win 8 Migration   11/28/2012 8:02:52 AM
Re: Touchpads
Even the lowest tech employees around here have smartphones.  They are very familiar with touch based interfaces.  In many respects I think that they are easier to use, the issue I see will be reliability and maintenance.  Replacing a mouse or keyboard that is heavily used is one thing, replacing a touch screen is a much bigger deal.
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