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8/96 Analysis: Windows at Work

Can You Really Afford Not to Migrate?

If you're still toiling under the weight of multiple operating
systems, the time to make the break is now!

By Cheryl Currid

IT'S PARTY TIME. This month, Windows 95 fans will celebrate their new companion's first birthday.

For many, that celebration will likely be held at home. Businesses, especially large ones, have decided to forego the festivities, content as they are with their old 16-bit friends Windows 3.1x, Windows for Workgroups and even DOS (it's not really dead, although it should be).

If your business is among the no-shows, wake up before you find yourself off the guest list for next year's Profitable Business celebration.

There are many reasons to migrate to Win95. Software vendors have rapidly adopted the new platform. Six months into Win95's existence, apps for the OS became the second largest-selling format, according to the Software Publishers Association. And just about every computer sold since last Christmas has Win95 pre-installed. There's simply no escaping it.

Magazines, instructional guides and video training programs, as well as hardware, have followed suit. Most newly published work is geared toward Win95, as are scanners, digital cameras, printers and other peripherals.

Some companies are still using more than one operating system, and have gotten used to OS-hopping when an app that runs on one doesn't behave on the other. But this translates to big bucks in terms of wasted time. Just ask Goldman Sachs. The financial services company figures each employee loses an hour a day booting back and forth between Windows 3.1x and OS/2. Multiply that by 10,000 employees in a single division at a conservative salary estimate of $10 per hour, and you're talking $500,000 a week in lost productivity. That's why G-S started migrating to 32-bit Windows in June.

You're probably facing peaceful-coexistence problems yourself-dealing with utilities and accessories for different operating systems, filenaming-convention problems, and colleagues who send you files and then can't read your edits.

A workgroup can quickly lose its cohesive texture when its members are wrestling with multiple computing platforms. Using different word processors is a hassle; using completely different operating systems begets a whole new breed of gotchas.

Juggling operating systems makes life harder than it has to be. Computing is no longer smooth and invisible. You have to remember which computer you're using and the nuances of its operating environment.

Win95 will not be ignored

Ignoring Win95 may have been a defensible business strategy in the beginning, what with its difficulties working with older 16-bit (or, heaven forbid, DOS) applications. Rumors abounded of costly bugs and breakdowns between Win95 and existing DOS and Windows apps. And some companies couldn't cope with the communications differences, which turned out to be an improvement for straight telephone communications but buggy for Novell networks.

The consequences of staying with Windows 3.1x were mild by comparison. Sure, you couldn't run the latest version of Word, but who needed those red squiggles under their misspelled words anyway? And though you were stuck with the 8.3 filenaming convention, you became positively adept at coming up with cryptic abbreviations.

Today, however, your company can't afford to stick with the old Windows much longer. If you want to skip right to Windows NT, start installing now. Give it to power users who can perform their own upgrades when the new version ships. Otherwise, take an honest look at how (not if) you can install Win95-sooner rather than later.

For many, it will require a trip to the store. Win95 makes heavy demands on memory, for one thing. Fortunately, RAM prices have softened, so buying an extra 8MB or so no longer requires a small-business loan.

You and your colleagues won't want to use those old 16-bit apps, either. The 32-bit apps are much more stable and robust. It's worth the cost to upgrade as much software as you can.

Sure, migration will cost you time and money, but this is one of those business investments you can ill afford to put off.

WinMag Analyst Cheryl Currid is president of Houston-based Currid & Company, a research and consulting firm. Contact Cheryl in the "Windows at Work" topic of WINDOWS Magazine's areas on America Online and CompuServe. Click Here to find the e-mail IDs for our editors, who can put you in touch with this author.

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