While Microsoft's Window operating systems are widely used, its 2012 offering, Windows 8, didn't receive a gold star. This quickly led to an updated version, Windows 8.1, which didn't fare well either.

As a result, many credit unions are still using Windows 7 or earlier versions as they wait for the best upgrade opportunity.

"Windows 8 was more of a piloted roll out and the next generation [Windows 8.1] was panned pretty strongly. Thankfully not too many financial institutions adopted it," said William McCracken CEO of the Chamblee, Ga.-based Synergistics Research Corp., a firm providing research for the financial services industry.

In an effort to stem the Windows 8.1 tide, the Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft Corp. is bypassing Windows 9 altogether in hopes of gaining larger market share when it launches Windows 10 later this year in 190 counties and 111 languages.

"We have a couple of credit unions that are in tire-kicking mode and asking our thoughts on Windows 10," said Jim Trautwein senior director at the Scottsdale. Ariz.-based Cornerstone Advisors. "A number of [CU] clients looked at Windows 8 and the user interface and experience was so far different, they backed off on it really quickly."

Crossing the Threshold

Originally called "Threshold," Windows 10 was officially introduced to the market in beta-testing mode in the fall of 2014. The new operating system (OS) was designed to have a user interface with elements of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, but that operates equally and interchangeably on PCs, tablets and Windows-based smartphones.

A new web browser, Microsoft Edge, will replace Internet Explorer and it will also feature Windows Hello, providing instant access to devices via biometric authentication.

According to Microsoft, Windows 10 will feature Continuum, an application that seamlessly transitions between interface modes (e.g., convertible laptops and tablets with docking keyboards). For example, when users attach a keyboard to their tablet, they are given the option to switch to a mouse and keyboard option or remain in touch mode. Additionally, the left side Start menu will host an application list with live tiles on the right hand side of the resizable screen.

Whether these upgrades will transfer effectively in a business environment remains unknown. "It's always a cost-benefit trade off and we don't know yet what the [Windows 10] benefits will be to financial institutions until the solution is tested and proven," McCracken noted.

With new operating systems, McCracken noted that sometimes the benefits are minute and incremental placing the investment into question. "Other times the report back is that there is productivity improvement. At this time it is hard whether to advise credit unions to adopt it [Windows 10] or not."

No Shades of Gray?

For CUs running Windows 7 (or an earlier operating system) the choice to adopt Windows 10 may be more black and white than gray. These institutions could be required to upgrade to remain in cycle with vendors and third-party partners.

"If credit unions want to remain compatible with the latest and greatest, they are going to need to evaluate with their vendors and partners the compatibility of Windows 10 and the new browser [Microsoft Edge] for their internet banking, their mobile banking—all the member facing services," said Trautwein.

In many cases when a new technology solution is considered by a credit union the technology department and/or a selected employee group will beta test in a controlled environment. To this end, Microsoft is allowing free testing until rollout.

Have IT Tackle it First

"It is best to have your technology people do the upgrade first. They get familiar with the version, see if there are any bugs, make sure it is working and interfacing with banking databases without problems," said McCracken. "Once the technology people give thumbs up, only then you can roll it out."

If Windows 10 is widely adopted by consumers, including credit union employees and members, there could potentially be issues, especially for those credit unions supporting a bring your own device (BYOD) policy.

"The good news is that Windows 10 will be compatible with a lot of other systems, the bad news with BYOD is that credit unions will be in less control of the desktop," said Trautwein. "There is a concern that the consumer market will be quick to adopt this because it is neat and new and they will bring it into the credit union faster than the IT department will want to." He continued. "The IT department has to stay the course and not let momentum of the consumer market overrun their ability to their job."

Analysts agree that credit unions using Windows 7 or (gasp) XP or Vista will likely be the first adopters of Windows 10—users of Windows 8.1 have more breathing room, added McCracken.

And while Windows 10 roll out is not expected until mid-summer, credit union executives are encouraged to determine strategies now.

"They can't just say this is a 2016 initiative—maybe a strategy for internal use—but where members are concerned they have to be looking actively at this to ensure they are fully compatible with the new operating system," said Trautwein. "Windows 10 from a consumer perspective will have excitement and flexibility, but the question will be how to lock this down as a business tool."

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