Business solutions news briefs -- Nov. 17

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Debate about Windows

Q: I read your column advising someone to avoid Windows 8 and stick with Windows 7 if they don’t have a touch screen. But another option is to get a new touch pad, which allows you to use the same gestures you would on a touch screen. Wouldn’t that be easier to use than a touch screen because we’re already primed to use a device beside our PCs?

A: What you suggest strikes me as a way to force Windows 8 onto an older desktop or laptop PC that wasn’t designed to run it. That’s probably not a good idea.

Why? Unlike earlier versions of Windows, Windows 8 isn’t much of an improvement over what preceded it. All it offers, really, is a new touch-screen interface. So if the touch-screen experience isn’t satisfactory, you have to ask yourself why you bought it.

There are four distinct groups who will potentially use Windows 8, probably with varying degrees of satisfaction.

• Tablet computer users: This is still a new market, and there’s room for another major operating system besides Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. While Microsoft’s own Surface Windows 8 tablet is not quite as slick as Apple’s iPad, it’s a good touch-screen device.

• Smart-phone users: There’s more competition for Windows Phone 8 in smart phones, because iPhones and Android phones both have loyal users. Microsoft has barely made a dent in the smart phone market in the past, so it has a steep hill to climb.

• Users of new Windows 8 desktop and laptop PCs that come with touch screens: The success of Windows 8 will depend on whether it’s better for doing real work than Windows 7 or XP that are run by a keyboard and mouse. Since millions of people have been happy with the traditional Windows interface, it’s unclear whether the Windows 8 touch-screen approach will be successful. In addition, using the Windows 8 interface on a new PC means having to buy all your software over again. (Windows 8 allows you to switch back to the traditional Windows 7 mode to run your existing software, but that defeats the purpose of buying Windows 8.)

• Users of older PCs without touch screens: My advice is to stick with Windows 7, not Windows XP.

— Steve Alexander, Minneapolis Star Tribune


Performance review question

Q: I am very upset about my recent performance review. I received an overall rating of “satisfactory,” even though more than half the individual items were rated “outstanding.” This doesn’t make any sense, and I feel like I’m being short-changed. My manager said I was doing a good job and offered no suggestions for improvement, yet I still got an average rating and an average raise. The same thing happened last year. How do I keep this from happening again?

A: Without more information, it’s impossible to know whether your rating is appropriate. Employees often have a limited understanding of the appraisal process.

Most organizations restrict the number of top ratings that managers are allowed to use. Since appraisals must typically be approved by both upper management and human resources, your boss may not be able to distribute many “outstanding” scores. Also, the overall rating is not usually determined by averaging all the sub-ratings unless a weighting system is used. The reason is that some goals, tasks or traits may be more important than others. Therefore, your overall rating of “satisfactory” might not be as inappropriate as it seems. If you have questions about how the appraisal system works, your human resources manager will undoubtedly be glad to explain. But the person who really owes you an explanation is your boss, since he has failed to provide any useful feedback. Your wimpy manager is apparently trying to escape an honest performance discussion, so you must ask for one.

— Marie G. McIntyre, McClatchy-Tribune News

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