IT Departments: Deploy Windows hybrids for employee buy-in

IT Departments: Deploy Windows hybrids for employee buy-in

Summary: One of the problems affecting the adoption of Windows 8.1 is the resistance many have to the radical design of the interface. That can be minimized by the hybrid.


The Metro/Modern interface, the Start screen in particular, is something you either love or hate. Ask folks why they haven't upgraded to Windows 8.1 from Windows 7 or earlier and many will tell you they can't stand the interface.

Windows 8.1 Hybrid
Asus Transformer Book T100 hybrid (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

That doesn't just apply to individual users, it's the situation the enterprise is confronting, too. Deploying the latest version of Windows when so many employees don't like it is a potential recipe for disaster.

That could be offset if corporate IT departments would look at deploying hybrids. Those are the devices in the familiar laptop form that can become tablets by pulling the screen off the laptop portion. As the ads are fond of saying, a hybrid is a laptop when you need one and a tablet when you want one.

Workers will be doing things they enjoy, and come to view using the Windows 8.1 hybrid as less of a work thing and more of a fun thing.

This is the perfect method to deal with employee resistance to the deployment of Windows 8.1. Workers are more likely to view the hybrid as a more personal device, as tablets are personal in nature. Deploying hybrids would be a good way to bridge work and personal, without sacrificing the utility the enterprise requires.

One benefit that IT departments might see is the reduction in the amount of training needed for the radically different operation of Windows 8.1 over what came before. Using the touch tablet will stimulate users to explore on their own, and that will lead to learning the new OS without supervision. Windows 8.1 is natural on a tablet and workers will pick up on that through personal use.

Discovering how good the Windows 8.1 tablet is for personal use should lead workers to realize that the tablet can also serve well for some work functions. That can only make them more productive than they otherwise would be.

To make this work it needs to be the IT policy to not only let employees use the device for personal stuff, it should encourage it. Employees with a corporate hybrid must be encouraged to take them home and use them for personal tasks. This may be a radical departure for companies that have always forbidden personal use of company laptops.

This dual usage can be handled like it is already being handled for smartphones. The hybrid can be provisioned to keep personal and business data walled off. This protects both company and personal information, keeping both parties comfortable.

I predict that companies who embrace this methodology and deploy hybrids to workers will get an overwhelmingly positive result. Employees may grumble about Windows 8.1 at first, but I believe they will come around quickly once they see how good it is at running personal tablets.

They will be doing things they enjoy, and come to view using the Windows 8.1 hybrid as less of a work thing and more of a fun thing. That can only be good for the company, the IT department in particular.

I see this effect all the time when I speak with folks about Windows 8.1. Many have a knee-jerk reaction and tell me they hate Windows as it represents work to them. Then I hand them a Windows 8.1 tablet and watch them operate Metro by touch, and I often see a change come over them. They end up smiling and going all over the interface, tapping and swiping to their hearts' content.

This can and should come to the enterprise, if companies are willing to take a chance.

Additional coverage of hybrid devices:

Topics: Mobility, Laptops, Tablets, Windows 8

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  • not going to happen

    Hybrids are the worst of both worlds. They have the power of a laptop, but with a netbook sized screen and keyboard. The Metro interface is poorly designed and the various hardware compromises that are involved to make hybrids seem to make them clumsy compared to the various Android and Apple tablets on the market. There have been improvements since the initial release of Win 8 and the first round of hybrids that supported it. I have a work issued iPad, a Win 7 laptop, and a Galaxy S4 phone. Yes, that often means carrying multiple devices....but it still translates to 1 laptop bag and a couple of chargers. But I have a solid keyboard and a 17 inch screen for Office, and an always on tablet for instant access to a variety of browser based and corp supported apps for remote access to data, equipment and work processes.
    • Minor details...

      Minor details make Windows 8.1 a lot easier to live with when you are using a standard keyboard and mouse PC. First, there is a setting that brings you back to the desktop when there are no apps opened. It makes the Metro/Desktop in and out less of a hassle. And then, there is the default apps used for each extension. Setting up you 8.1 PC can take a few minutes more. For example, you might want to open a desktop based application like adobe reader instead of using the Metro app that come with 8.1 to open .pdf files. It is the same with music or video files.

      The major issue about 8.1 on a full PC is that metro apps uses the entire screen most of the time, unless the metro environment was split in two or three. As James suggests, it is absolutely not a problem on a tablet. However, on a Desktop PC, it’s really annoying.

      I truly hope that Win 9 addresses these issues. First, MS needs to enhance the Desktop environment, not ditch it. We should get new features. Second, there is a need to add a new Start style menu on the desktop. The Metro start Screen never made sense on a Desktop PC. I don’t want the start button menu back. I want something entirely new that merges the start menu and the Metro start Screen. A side pane would do it.

      The truth is that we simply need to forms of Windows. One for the desktop and one for mobile devices. I truly love my Surface 2. I wouldn’t want to change Windows when I am using it. But when I go back to my Home Desktop PC running 8.1, there is something not natural about it, not right. That is why my Office PC runs Win 7 and will remain that way.
      • Apps

        My problem with Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, is not the fact that I have to use the start menu, the problem lies with the fact that when I open Internet Explorer from the Start menu, it feels like I lost control of everything: where are my favorites, how do I go from one site to the other, and so on, and how do I close the apps?

        On the other hand , when I start Internet Explorer from the desktop, I feel like home, and feel in total control, and the computer gives access to the control that I am used to use.
        • Two Different Interfaces

          From the start menu Explorer is meant to be used with touch. From the desktop it is meant to be used with a mouse. I use both on my hybrid depending on what I am doing. Rather than complain about the differences you should learn to use the right tool for the job.
          • Thats right, it's the users fault.

          • The worst of both worlds

            There never was a reason to combine everything together in the first place. When you make a combination tool, you always lose functionality. If you take your car to a mechanic and he pulls out a crescent wrench, a swiss army knife, and a 100-piece replaceable tip screwdriver set, you'd better leave before he takes anything apart. Yet those very tools are handy for some things, and function fine. Tablets are fine for simple mundane stuff, but not for detailed work...I hate trying to edit a photo on one, and would never even try to do any serious photo work on one. Yet I have a tablet in my shop that is better than a laptop or desktop for quickly looking up data on various spreadsheets, for following an instructional series or video, etc. But I got the data for those spreadsheets by using a desktop for very precise measurement of drawings and photos, which is ridiculous to attempt on a tablet. So why design an operating system that is a mix of both? The right tool for the right job, a touch poke and drag for tablet tasks, and a better organized mouse and keyboard approach for more complex tasks on a desktop. MS needs to wake up and realize we're not all just a bunch of Facebook/twitter posting bozos who just need to poke at the pretty icons on a screen. Windows for tablets, and windows for computers, it's not that hard to figure out the right way to do it.
          • RE: the worst of both worlds

            How is a Lenovo Yoga the worst ultrabook on the market?

            Explain how my Asus Transformer T100 is the worst of all tablets.

            I have used both extensively and they are great.

            Enough of the hyperbole already.

            So a hybrid isn't for you, no big deal. Some people are going to love having all the functionality of a hybrid. Something that can replace two devices with just one, or a device that completely replaces one and offers extended functionality of another.

            I've never understand why people fight so hard for their computers to do less.

            When did so many people give up on wanting more out of their devices....
          • Re: The worst of both worlds

            Using your analogy of a mechanic, the mechanic have a lift to lift your car and look underneath. It have a compressor to power his tool. But if he needs to go out on the road to help you, because your car broke down in the middle of the road, his truck cannot carry those tools. He carry a hydraulic jack, a small compressor and tool that he can carry in the truck and use. Main work is not to be done on the road, but it helps to get you back on the road.

            Windows 8 is the same. Your desktop is your garage, but when you need to go out on the field, you need light weight computer or tablet. Here is where Windows 8 beauty comes in to play. Doing a travel presentation where a tablet like the Surface Pro comes into play, allow you to connect to a projector and do your presentation. It also allows you to change the data in the presentation thru the large projection but using the mouse and keyboard of the Surface Pro. If you work with CAD and need to look at a project on site, you can take the tablet, look at the problem and with the pen make the necessary changes and show it to the client. Then go back to the office and refine your design if needed to. It's a question of having a open mind and trying new things.
        • it's easy to switch to the desktop version of IE, either ad hoc or

          to switch ad hoc, right click in the "metro" version and then click or tap the wrench icon that appears on the bottom bar. then select "open on the desktop". Voila, you're viewing the web page on the desktop. To make the desktop version the default that will open from either the desktop or the "metro" start screen, open the desktop version then click the Tools menu item (cog wheel icon), Internet options, Programs tab. then under Choose how you open links, change the dropdown box to Always open in Internet explorer on the desktop.
          Personally, I like the default option because sometimes I want to use my fingers (so I open from the start menu) and other times I want to use the mouse and keyboard (so I open from the desktop). But I can do mouse and keyboard on either version. It did take me a bit to figure out now that I've practiced a bit, I am pretty much equally comfortable in either version. It was not much different from trying to figure out how to use a different desktop browser (Firefox or Chrome...) each one takes a bit of time investment to master.
        • Apps OK

          To close an app, swipe down from the top of the window. You should see a poof of smoke as it clouds and disappears.

          For IE, to see the favorites, swipe up from the bottom of IE or right click on the mouse. Just to the right of the refresh button, the next button is your favorites.

          To go to multiple sites, use the tabs. Swipe up or right click, your tabs should show. Not only that, but you can pin it to the Start screen, so it will jump directly to that site. Swipe up, or right click, near the bottom of the site, there are three buttons; click the middle button with a small icon of a pin. Then a pin to Start button appears, click it and now you can jump directly to that site from the Start screen.

          At first, I hated the Metro (now named "Modern") Start, it took a while to get used to it, and that is a big minus and I am in IT, but now I rather like it. My daughter needed a new laptop, her screen started to display only the left half. The new one came with Windows 8. When setting it up, I had a real hard time using it. I couldn't find the Control Panel. Looked at one site and there it was, just type it on the Start screen. You can launch most apps that way as well. By the time you type "Con" you can see the list of "Con" apps, including the Control Panel.

          When in doubt where things went, try a swipe up from the bottom, most of what you are used to, will come up.

          Now that I've added in Windows 8 into Parallels on my Mac, I got used to it rather quickly and I like it. I figured I better get really good at Windows 8 if our company switches to Windows 8. The learning curve from XP to Vista and Windows 7, we skipped Vista at work (but I used it from the RTM in a VM on my Mac) we went straight to Windows 7. Not much of a learning curve, but the biggest thing is installing apps, you could do it easily (without "running as") you just wait for the authentication to type in the admin password. In that respect, Windows 8 does it the same way.
          • Party like it's 1980 all over again

            " Looked at one site and there it was, just type it on the Start screen. You can launch most apps that way as well. By the time you type "Con" you can see the list of "Con" apps, including the Control Panel."

            This is a step backwards in terms of usability ... what happens if you can't remember the name of an application that you haven't used in a while?
            Graphical user interfaces were invented to avoid this problem in the first place.

            "New" doesn't always mean better. ... what would you think if, on new models, Ford decided to put the steering wheel in the trunk and the gas pedal in the glove box?
          • Re: Party like it's 1980 all over again

            If you forgot the name of the application, then you really forgot about the application. People usually remember the first couple of letters of an program. So when you start to type, Windows 8 start displaying every programs that starts with the first letters.

            Also, if you swipe up from the bottom, you will see the graphic interface of every program you have on your computer. If you don't see it there, then you don't have it.

            I have look around and still have not found any car with the steering on the trunk or gas pedal in the glove box. Maybe you can build one to make your argument valid.
          • Re: Party like it's 1980 all over again

            Boy, you must really whiz through the archaic dropdowns and menus full of uninstalls etc that former Windows versions popped onto the start menu. IT recently did an update and now half my installed applications and folders are no longer in my Start menu in XP. While I will be so glad when a new Windows 7 PC rests on my desktop in a matter of weeks, I do wish it were 8.x

            Searching can not only bring you to Bing searches, but searches the local system for files, programs, what have you at the drop of a hat. I absolutely abhorred the endless searches with no results, meaningless wildcards, etc.

            And listen to the people wanting to go back to 1997. The din and cry for Start buttons, start menus smacks of the same stick-in-the-mud mentality. Fact is Windows 8.1 is faster, lighter and more secure than is Windows 7. With the newer chips it increased battery life and the new devices are slimmer and more functional with the touch screen far out-distancing the touch pads for user friendliness.
            Mark Richey
          • Swipe up, swipe down, swipe all around

            Sorry, Instead of having to spend all that time swiping, I'll just continue to click on Favorites and click on my saved links, or right-click a hyperlink and click to open in a new tab or window. If I had any use for a tablet, I wouldn't mind Metro/Modern UI on it (I've tried one at Best Buy and it works pretty well there) but for the desktop or laptop, if I have to install Windows 8.1, I'll install Start8 and get the functionality of Windows 7 UI back. This whole Like It/Don't Like It could have been so easily solved had Microsoft installed a switch in Windows 8 that would have allowed the end user to decide FOR THEMSELVES which UI they wanted to use. Obviously all the Start Button/Menu replacements demonstrate that it wasn't hard to include the option in the original Win 8 release.
        • RE: Apps

          rollou, On IE from the Start Menu, if you look and touch or click the black bar at the bottom, you can click on the Favorites to add your favorite web site as a tile on the Start Menu screen. My wife have done that. She group all her favorite web sites together and name it "My Favorite". She have the utilities company, cable company, insurance, etc.

          Also, from the same bar, you can see all your past browsers and you can close them by touching or clicking on the X to close that web site. It's like tabs. It's made for touch, but other than that it have the same features as IE for the desktop.

          You have to understand the IE from the Start Menu was created for small devices, like tablet. So prime real estate (screen size) is important for user and the reason, many of the things you have on IE desktop are not visible, but are there.
      • Classic Shell solves the desktop issue

        I've added ClassicShell to 8.1 and have the best of both worlds - Metro screen when I want it and a Windows 7 interface in desk top mode. Why not stay with 7? Don't get metro apps and 8.1 is definitely faster and more stable.
        • Start8 is also good

          I have no problem with the improvements under the hood in Win 8.1. It's just that Metro UI. Fortunately there are the Start Button/Menu replacements. In addition to ClassicShell, Start8 is an excellent program. I had installed Win 8.1 on my laptop but just did not like the UI no matter how hard I tried. I just found it to be more work. After installing Start8 I set it up so that it boots directly to the desktop, gets rid of the hot corners, and adds back the Start Button/menu. Now I have the best of both worlds, Win 7-style UI and Win 8.1 underpinnings.
    • I never have to put down my Windows hybrid

      For all the "worst of everything compromise" arguments people inflate about hybrids, they do exactly what they set out to do. Offer a user one device that can accomplish all their needs.

      I never have to put down my Asus T100, because it can't do what I need it to do as a tablet or a notebook. At half the price of your solution.

      If I *want* something with a larger screen, I can do that just as well as you do. Having a second computing device in addition to a hybrid becomes a matter of preference and not one of necessity.

      I'm not sure how running three devices with three completely different operating systems and three dissimilar sets of programs that all must be purchased for each platform is the best of all worlds. Your non-hybrid solution almost forces a user to carry around all three devices, because independently they may not be able to meet 100% of a users needs.

      Granted that a hybrid may not be a good solution for you, but consider that what you find a good solution other find to be a terrible way to meet their needs.
      • Right Solution

        For me a hybrid is the best solution also. I have a 15" Sony Flip with the high resolution screen. Talk about compromise, that 17" monitor he uses with 1920X1080 (130dpi) is an extremely poor compromise. It is OK for television and made is high volumes for it. For static text screens it looks really poor after you have used something in the 200 dpi. After a full 8 hour day you can really tell the difference in eye strain. That is why readers tend to have higher resolution screens.

        As for the original post in this thread, it looks like the typical opinions of those that have not used touch that much. I doubt that he has ever used a digitizing touch with OneNote either. He would probably change his story.

        Emacho, I know you like your T100 and it is a great device. OneNote on your machine is like using one of those large jumbo crayons in kindergarten. If you had a digitizing touch for even a day with OneNote you would buy one immediately. Please note that at this point there are only 3 hybrids that have digitizing touch, Surface Pro, Sony Flip, and Acer Aspire R7(new version only).
        • I agree, the digitizers are awesome

          Loved the one I used on my old Samsung Android and Windows tablets, but handwriting is something that I just do not enjoy.

          Beyond that I think Asus and Lenovo both have windows tablets with digitizers, or releasing them shortly.

          Either way, I will most likely pick up an 8 inch tablet next year when the next generation tablets are released. By then they should have everything I want in a mobile device.