Adoption of the latest software and operating systems in the public sector is often slower than in the private sector, which is why many laptops in state and local government likely still run on Microsoft Windows XP, a platform originally released in 2001 -- for which the software company recently announced it will discontinue support.

But Windows 8, Microsoft’s newest operating system released last year, has users both excited and uncertain about its series of new features. Its interface uses a collection of “tiles” for navigating apps – a feature that more seamlessly functions on a touchscreen computer or tablet rather than a traditional laptop, and is perhaps less suited for many in the public sector.

Enter the new EliteBook Folio 9470m Ultrabook by HP, which was designed as the classic clamshell laptop, but can be equipped with the new Windows 8 OS. Though it's a fresh take on an OS, those not yet familiar with the Windows 8 interface may find the tile functionality challenging and unnecessarily complicated on the non-touchscreen laptop. (I had to watch a Windows 8 YouTube tutorial just to learn how to find the list of wireless networks in range, for instance.)

According to HP, the new EliteBook can still be equipped with Windows 7 (either the premium or professional version), which Microsoft has emphasized it will continue to support – something that may come in handy for enterprises looking to roll out a fleet of the new laptops. Governments looking to upgrade to HP’s new EliteBook may want to consider purchasing units equipped with Windows 7 rather than spending the extra time familiarizing themselves with Windows 8 on a non-touchscreen.

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The new model, which is three-fourths of an inch thin (see above) and weighs just under 3.6 pounds, is HP’s thinnest EliteBook to date. The unit has an Intel Core processor (i5 vPro), a 14-inch diagonal LED-backlit HD anti-glare screen, a 720p HD webcam and three USB 3.0 ports.

With enterprise docking capabilities built into the unit, it can function across an entire line of EliteBooks, so the same dock can be used for each unit. Since the EliteBook also includes a DisplayPort, the unit can support older and newer infrastructure – a useful feature if public-sector agencies have not yet -- or are in the process of -- migrating to newer infrastructure.

The new Elitebook offers a variety of authentication and security features through its “HP Protect Tools.” Users can opt for fingerprint authentication, and use built-in smart card reader, though users can also stick to traditional password protection for authentication.

Its durability meets the military standards (MIL-STD-810G) to combat vibration, shock, altitude, high temp and low temperature, temperature shock and humidity. According to HP, the model endured a series of drop tests, and can be dropped from 30 inches above the ground 26 times in a row and still boot up.

Overall, the new EliteBook is lightweight and easy to carry for those who travel, but is probably better to purchase with Windows 7 than Windows 8.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.