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'Radical change' in Windows 8 user interface could require training

The new Windows 8 user interface is so different that IT might have to spend significant time and money on training to get employees up to speed.

Corporate early adopters of Windows 8 might want to start making plans to train staffers on Microsoft's new-look operating system.

Windows 8 training could prove daunting for the millions of workers already familiar with the ubiquitous Windows user interface -- and expensive for IT shops. Factoring in the cost of training courses and employees' lost time in the office, it could easily cost $400 per employee, per day, said Paul DeGroot, principal consultant at Pica Communications LLC, a Windows licensing consultancy in Camano Island, Wash.

Other analysts are concerned about how long it will take for employees to become comfortable with the new UI.

"It's going to take quite a bit of retraining because everything in the UI is different," said Carl Von Papp, a computer instructor and Windows 8 beta tester at Bellevue College in Washington. "It will constitute a major learning curve for users."

The Windows 8 user interface trades the familiar start screen and desktop icons for touch-enabled tiles, which Microsoft used to call Metro apps but now refers to as the modern user interface. The OS does offer a desktop mode, which more closely resembles the traditional Windows look, but switching between the two interfaces can take some getting used to.

Windows 8 user interface: A 'radical change'

The San Antonio Kidney Disease Center has no plans to upgrade to Windows 8 immediately. When it does -- probably next year, the center will most likely eschew outside classes in favor of informal training among end users, said Philip L. Moya, Jr., IT manager for the Texas physicians group. "If I wait long enough, users will probably start using it at home," he said.

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Even then, the rollout will be slow as new Windows 8 machines gradually replace aging Windows XP PCs. "It's going to take a long, hard look, because it's such a radical change," Moya said.

Not all observers agree that training users on the Windows 8 user interface will be all that costly or time-consuming, however. "I appreciate that it's significantly different, but I think people will be okay with it," said Michael Cherry, a research vice president at Directions on Microsoft, an analyst firm in Kirkland, Wash. "After about a week, I'm moving back and forth between the two user interfaces with no problem."

End-user training isn't the only cost organizations can expect to incur with the move to Windows 8. Training systems administrators and help desk personnel can run to $2,500 or more for a five-day class offered by Microsoft training partners. Partners also offer Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist and Microsoft Certified IT Professional exams starting at approximately $150.

Windows 8 a giant question mark

The need for more expensive touchscreen devices, to fully take advantage of the Windows 8 user interface, is another drawback, Cherry said.

Whether or not an organization needs touchscreen capabilities will be a determining factor in moving to Windows 8 or staying on Windows 7, said Ajit Kapoor, principal and managing director at The Kapoor Group, a global consultancy in Orlando, Fla. That leaves Windows 8 as a giant question mark on many IT departments' to-do list.

"It isn't even in the planning stages at most companies, so although senior management knows it has to plan, I haven't seen much thought put into it yet," Kapoor said.

Dig Deeper on Windows 8 and 8.1

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