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Windows at Work /
Cheryl Currid

Are You Ready to Take The Giant Step to NT?
If you haven't already upgraded to Windows 95, you just may want to jump right into NT.

If yours was one of the many organizations that postponed upgrading to Windows 95, 1996 may have been a lackluster year. If you held out on the new OS, you probably also put off some new technology acquisitions until you were ready to make a move.

Well, it's decision time. Only this year, you'll most likely bypass Win95, and make the quantum leap to NT.

Will you spend 1997 catching up? Will SETUP.EXE be your organization's most popular application this year? Because the Are You Ready for NT?upgrade cycle will keep you busy enough, I've resolved to pare this year's list of New Year's resolutions down to three.

Start planning D-Day. That's decision day. Use your spreadsheet application to start building a decision table. Should you move to Win95 (or Win97)? Should you leapfrog right to NT? Should you just stay put?

Last time I encouraged readers to upgrade, an avalanche of unhappy e-mail nearly buried me. But all the signs indicate the future looks dim for DOS and 16-bit Windows. Even if you've developed lots of DOS apps in-house, you still have to update them from time to time. With all the great Win95 development tools out there, you just might find it's more cost-effective to bite the bullet and redevelop than to be restricted to the cumbersome and labor-intensive DOS development tools. The only way you can hang on to the dinosaur DOS platform is if you plan to maintain the status quo, never upgrade and never install any new functions.

By the end of the first half of 1996, North American sales of Windows 32-bit apps reached $806 million, according to the Software Publishers Association. That's more than double the DOS apps figure of $353 million. Less than nine months after Win95's introduction, the category had already exceeded sales of Macintosh applications. Comparing first to second quarter 1996, Windows 32-bit was the only software growth category. Meanwhile, DOS apps continued their free fall, declining 51 percent.

Staying with Win3.x is not the least-cost route you may think it is. The Gartner Group's total-cost-of-ownership studies reveal the old OS is expensive to maintain. Poor memory management, difficult setups for peripherals and less-than-stellar networking support all complicate a network manager's job. Win95 and NT eliminate many of these support problems.

Investigate at least two new technologies. Have you seen the latest in mobile computers? The Windows CE hand-held intrigues me-not as a replacement for a notebook computer, but as a supplement. Use it to capture information in settings where it's inconvenient to pull out a notebook.

Another technology worth trying is speech recognition. I recently downloaded Kurzweil's VoicePad. My first little chat with the computer was less than fulfilling. However, it soon began to understand me. In fact, I've already dictated and stored nearly a whole article.

The technology has come a long way over the past few years. With a little practice, you can achieve over 95 percent accuracy. Kurzweil sets users' expectations at 45 to 50 words per minute, but others, such as Dragon Dictate and IBM's VoiceType 3.0, claim experienced chatters can achieve 70 to 90 words a minute.

Implement an adopt-a-user program. You have no more excuses for allowing computer illiterates to roam your hallways. It's time to save their souls (and maybe their jobs)

Find ways technology can help a needy user do a better job. Then, fulfill your adoptee's training requirements, be it through a company-sponsored course or the local college. Don't forget Web-surfing lessons. Most users will drown in the swells without proper training.

Once training's complete, provide specific productivity tools. Schedule regular meetings to track your adoptee's progress.

Encourage others to adopt needy users, too. Just think, if you created an adoption program for all your needy users, you could transform your entire organization into a team of self-reliant, knowledgeable workers. People will start taking charge of their own information responsibilities. What a concept!

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, or care of the editor at the e-mail addresses here.

Copyright 1997 CMP Media Inc.

(From Windows Magazine, January 1997, page 71.)