If you’re a small business or home user of Microsoft, you likely feel at times like a second-class citizen. I still remember when noted tech consultant Mark Minasi used to joke that Microsoft wrote software for the Fortune 499 — every major Fortune 500 company exceptApple — which meant that for many years consumer and home users were just along for the ride with Microsoft’s big-enterprise goals.

This is true more than ever with Windows 11. From its security mandates to its enhanced hardware requirements, Windows 11 has been a hard sell. The hardware mandates appear arbitrary and seem intended to push sales of new computers. But they do serve a purpose: to put in place building blocks for additional security protections involving credentials. The problem is that many small businesses and home users can’t take advantage of these security features for various reasons. Or they don’t see value in using biometrics, Windows Hello, or other more robust authentication techniques when they just want to use their computer without needing even a password to log in.

Many technology companies realize now that the chances a household will have a functioning Windows desktop is becoming smaller and smaller. Some users have moved to Apple computers, for instance, or now rely on an iPhone, iPad or Android device. I’ve also seen Apple computers make inroads in the board room even as Google Chromebooks make their entry into classrooms. Many of us in the last 30 to 40 years were all about the Microsoft ecosystem, but I doubt the next 40 years will have the same focus.

Sometimes users have to make changes when a vendor drops a product line. Case in point is the recent news about Intel dropping its Next Unit of Compute (NUC) units. Small and powerful, these little devices were often used by consultants to power streaming units, signs, and even needed desktops where small form factors were needed. Sometimes, users just move on to something new. (I’m thinking about a recent podcast discussing, “when it’s time to walk away from a Microsoft product.”)

Given the many cross-currents in technology these days, it’s important to avoid getting locked in and being unwilling (or unable) to upgrade or update. Here are my recommendations on how to do so:

  1. Consider alternatives to technologies like faxing, scanning, and printing. For both business and home users, vendors are moving away from printing and toward portable document formats. For many, a cell phone can now be used as a scanning device or for taking a picture of a document. Older printers often won’t integrate well with newer operating systems whether it’s Windows, Android or Apple. And given that for many businesses, electronic transfer portals are now the norm, not the exception, be open to receiving documents in electronic format, not in paper.
  2. Always look to the enthusiast crowd for workarounds for issues. For example, if you think you can’t install Windows 11 without a mandated Microsoft account, guess again — there is a workaround. If you’re worried you can’t install Windows 11 on hardware that isn’t officially supported, guess what — there is a workaround for that, too. If you don’t like the menu system, the file explorer, or any number of issues, there are lots of folks who have built commercial products to fix these issues or created workarounds.
  3. Don’t get trapped in any technology that keeps you on any specific platform. Relying too much on a process that isn’t forward looking and evolving isn’t wise. If you’re using technology that won’t work on either the Windows platform or with Apple’s ecosystem, chances are that technology won’t be around long.
  4. Be willing to learn new things. My dad, who will soon be 95, has gone from changing tubes in the back of televisions to where he now uses his iPhone, an iPad, and a Windows computer on a regular basis. He logs into his bank with FaceID on his Apple device to review what has posted to his bank account as well as direct deposits from his retirement. And he now has an Appe Watch that will alert us should he fall. While he sometimes gets annoyed with passwords, the point is that he’s lived through a lot of technology change and he makes it a point to keep learning.

Finally, when it comes to old technology, don’t expect all of your vendors to keep supporting whatever operating system you are on. There will come a time that the most important part these days of any operating system – the browser – will stop supporting the operating system you love. So, when Firefox announces that September 2024 is the end date for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 support, you need to move one from that old computer. You won’t be able to find parts for it easily. Its power supply will eventually die. Its hard drive will die, too.

So do yourself a favor and move to something newer. You are only putting yourself in harm’s way by keeping old technology running.

Be willing to embrace change — now more than ever.

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