If you dislike Windows 8, you're not alone - in fact, 8 months after release, it's sold only 1/2 as many copies as Windows Vista did, which was absolutely despised by every real estate agent I ever worked with. The graph on this page tells the story - with only 4% of the PC market-share, Microsoft seems to have offended nearly every computer user on the planet.
Well, just when you thought it was safe to buy that new laptop, they're doing it again: Microsoft has announced a public preview (ie: Beta) of Windows "Blue" - also called Windows 8.1 - which will be available as a free download on June 26th to customers currently using Windows 8.
According to Microsoft, the quick release of Windows Blue is part of their new shortened release cycle, designed to compete with Apple - but it's impossible to overlook the likelihood that Windows Blue's June 26th debut is also a "damage control" measure to fix some of the largest complaints that users had about Windows 8.
The biggest fix is the Start Button, which Microsoft is re-adding to the taskbar, where virtually everyone who purchased Windows 8 expected it to be. However, clicking "Start" doesn't open the old start-menu, but instead still opens the "start screen".
The Start Screen itself also has a few changes, one of the best being that you can customize the size of tiles into 4 different sizes, which provides a bit more choice for the layout. Also, I've read that there have been a few enhancements "under the hood" that make Windows Blue run a bit faster and a little more efficiently, although none that are truly game-changers.
What's this mean for brokers & agents? I'd say invest in web-based applications, because Windows Blue hints at an uncertain future for Microsoft. In essence, even though Microsoft is calling the changes a "Principled but not stubborn" approach to addressing customer complaints, the truth is that it's stepping back from the radical changes that it felt would let it bring together the mobile & PC markets with a single operating system. Why? Because that strategy failed.
As more people use tablets & smartphones for daily computing tasks, it means they spend less time & money on laptops and PC's - something that's been eroding Microsoft's dominance as the "standard" in the computing market. Microsoft's strategy to reclaim dominance as the world's leading operating system was to launch Windows 8 for PC's, tablets, and smartphones simultaneously - and get users to switch to Microsoft for ALL their computing tasks.
That's not what happened, though: Windows phones & tablets have simply failed to catch on, and meanwhile the "tablet-paradigm" that Windows 8 introduced has LOST them sales for laptops & desktops. Instead of growing their market share & diversifying into tablets & phones, Microsoft has instead raised eyebrows about whether the traditional "Windows" desktop might collapse entirely.
Since most agents & brokers are effectively small business owners, the question is how to hedge your bets against this uncertainty. A lot of agents have purchased Apple systems & run Windows as a "virtual machine", but this takes a bit of skill to setup, and costs a bit more to purchase. Also, low-cost "Google Chrome" netbooks & Linux PC's suggest that maybe Apple won't end up dominating the market entirely.
With all of these unanswered questions about the future of computing, the one thing all these operating systems have in common is the web - which means that as long as you've got a web-browser, you can access any web-application out there. I've personally seen lots of professionals working overtime to move their businesses to completely web-based systems, and what my own recommendation is that it's a great way to take the uncertainty out of your daily computing activities.
Want to Know More? If you're struggling to remain relevant in a post-PC real-estate industry, check out Harris Real Estate University's Real-Estate Technology Designation (RTD) program, which addresses the role of technology in modern real-estate, with specific applications for how you can apply technology to grow your business. It teaches you proven, real-world techniques where you can apply technology to make money now.
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