Move to Windows 8 inevitable, but alternatives welcome: CBA

Move to Windows 8 inevitable, but alternatives welcome: CBA

Summary: Having been a Microsoft client for a long time, CBA is locked into a Windows environment unless a viable alternative comes along, according to the bank's CIO, Michael Harte.


The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) has little choice but to eventually adopt the upcoming Windows 8 operating system, but it is still keen to find a challenger that will free the bank from its Microsoft prison, according to CBA CIO Michael Harte.

While Microsoft's position as a top technology player has slipped in recent years, the vendor remains prevalent in the enterprise space. CBA has been using Microsoft offerings to run its business for some time, but it's not entirely by choice, Harte said.

"On one hand, Microsoft helps us be more productive, but on the other hand we're kind of locked in," he said. "Until we have a credible competitor in the likes of Google Enterprise or somebody else, it's hard to think of a world where we're not destined to keep upgrading as Microsoft upgrades us.

"I'd quite like to see companies like Google step up and be in the enterprise to provide some real competition to Microsoft — I don't know too many companies that have a choice other than Microsoft."

At CBA's Sydney headquarters, most if not all staff members work off notebooks, specifically MacBook Airs running Windows. Some of the machines are already running on an early release version of Windows 8, but the bank has yet to commit to a wider rollout.

"We're still in negotiations, and we're still looking for credible alternatives," Harte said.

But holding off on upgrading to Windows 8 forever is not an option, according to the CBA CIO, since hardware vendors will eventually stop supporting older versions of the operating system, which will drive up IT maintenance costs.

"You have thousands of applications dependent on it, and you have to keep up to date with the service packs and so on," Harte said. "When you fall behind, it becomes expensive from an integration and maintenance perspective.

"So you have to keep up, because ultimately you can't keep delaying these decisions, since it becomes increasingly expensive to upgrade and keep current."

Overall, Harte isn't particularly thrilled about Windows 8, as he views it merely as "plumbing." He also doesn't think that the new operating system will bring any additional value to the bank.

"If Microsoft is just enjoying its incumbency in locking us in and adding little value, then it gets a little frustrating," Harte said.

Windows 8 officially launches on Friday.

Topics: Banking, Windows, Australia

Spandas Lui

About Spandas Lui

Spandas forayed into tech journalism in 2009 as a fresh university graduate spurring her passion for all things tech. Based in Australia, Spandas covers enterprise and business IT.

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  • They Don't Sound Very Enthusiastic About It

    Is this typical of Microsoft's customers these days--that they just passively accepts whatever the company dishes out, that they feel powerless to change and stop simply handing over more and more of their money?
    • So Apple and Googe are different.

      And how, may I ask is that so?
    • Fixed

      "Is this typical of Apple's customers these days--that they just passively accepts whatever the company dishes out, that they feel powerless to change and stop simply handing over more and more of their money?"
    • The short answer is a resounding NO.

      The CIO as depicted in this article should be fired. I have been in the IT business as a vendor and as customer for nearly thirty years. Responsible administrators do not consider upgrades in the manner that this ridiculous outfit does. I wished I was there integrator - I'd be making a ton of money every time something new comes out.
      Most environments I am familiar with have only recently updated to Windows 7 or are still on Windows XP. Doing otherwise at a bank of all places is just irresponsible.
  • "most ... staff members work off ... MacBook Airs running Windows"

    Seriously? A minority I could understand, but most? What's the logic?
    • Agree

      Why would you buy an expensive MacBook Air and then pay for an also not cheap Windows license?
      Cheaper just to get a Windows machine strait up.
      • Agreed

        But, While I personally despise the Apple software (OSX, iOS etc) their products are quite nice and relatively fast. As long as it runs native I think this would be an excellent combination
    • Its ridiculous

      Somebody's daddy let them be the CIO of the bank and he running the network like its a home theater system. Of course ZDnet is trying to represent this as a mainstream case. Not even close..
  • Why is it inevitable?

    So many companies have skipped versions of Windows, like never using Vista. If MS ups their rate of releases like it looks, they can run Win7 for a few more years and go right to Win9
    • RE: Why is it inevitable?

      Windows 7 is supported into 2020. CBA can sit out *both* Windows 8 and 9, perhaps Windows 8- and RT-based tablets excepted.

      Also, why not start a pilot project with Google Enterprise, Chromebooks and Chromeboxes? If it goes well, expand it to an appropriate organizational unit at CBA. And don't forget Amazon's Elastic Cloud and Microsoft's Office 365.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Exactly

      XP support goes end of life in 2014... that is why many enterprises are upgrading now.... to Windows 7, which is a proven and mature product with well defined best practices... Support for Windows 7 goes end of life in 2020 - when enterprises will start updating to Window 9...
  • It's all about hardware

    What a pity that EFI on PC is not gaining any traction.
    I think I know who opposes open hardware driver standards.
    With drivers put onto cards/hardware themselves and made available for any OS to call via EFI API, a certain major OS would lose an edge, as well as its lock-in capacity.
  • Windows 8 will add no value... Mr Harte have you used the CBA XP laptops??

    I cannot believe what I have just read, clearly Mr Harte has not touched a CBA laptop with the standard windows XP image on it for a while. I had to do some work at CBA a little while back and due to their 'security policy' I was unable to connect my PC to their network. I was given an 11 inch macbook air with the companies standard XP image on it. After at least a good 5-7 minutes I was booted into windows XP with about 5 or so errors on the screen to welcome me. I then connected it to a USB dock to use a larger monitor and external keyboard and mouse. Clearly windows XP didn't like this to much as my flickered for a while and eventually went blank. I gave up on the USB dock and disconnected this required a reboot in the end as it would now not recognise the USB key I was given by a CBA staff member with some data on. 5-7 minutes later I was up and running again and worked all day on a mini keyboard which was less than comfortable.... I had a little chat with the staff member about the laptops and he had opted for the 'portable desktop' dell option instead of the macbook air which he admitted was not a lot better. Why CBA would choose a macbook air instead of a smaller and lighter laptop that was designed for windows is beyond me and why their CIO can't see the value that windows 8 or 7 would add is also baffling. He says himself that they have many applications that are dependant on windows and that falling behind is costly but in the next breath says he can't see any value in upgrading!!! Windows XP is 11 YEARS OLD...