Microsoft offers business users 'how to choose' Windows tablet guidance

Microsoft offers business users 'how to choose' Windows tablet guidance

Summary: What criteria should business users use to evaluate which Windows 8 or Windows RT tablets they should buy? Here's Microsoft's guidance.


Though there still seems to be a shortage of Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets available for purchase, Microsoft officials are trying to make the matrix of potential form factors a bit less confusing.


On December 14, via a post to the "Windows for Your Business" blog, Microsoft officials shared some broad guidance for how business users should think about buying Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets, if and when they are interested in doing so.

For the purposes of its "How to Choose" framework, Microsoft lumped all current and existing Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets into three categories: Intel Core systems running Windows 8; Intel System-on-a-chip (Atom) machines running Windows 8; and ARM System-on-a-chip devices running Windows RT. The first two groups of machines can run existing third-party Windows apps; ARM-based devices cannot.

At the highest level, users should figure out whether they are looking for a new "primary" device or a "companion" device, said post author Erwin Visser, a Senior Director in the Windows division. "Companion devices typically do not need the same workload or app capabilities, while mobility and connectivity are often even more important," he said.

With that caveat in mind, here's what Microsoft officials are suggesting:

Mobility: For the best mobility, choose Windows 8 tablets with Intel Atom processors or Windows RT tablets that are lightweight and have long battery life.

Workload: For heavier workloads, choose Windows 8 tablets with Intel Core processors that are more powerful and support larger amounts of memory

Apps: When desktop apps need to be used, choose Windows 8 tablets with Intel Core or Intel Atom processors. (For heavier workloads, see above.) If corporate network connectivity is available, business users can make use of RemoteApp on all types of tablets, Visser said. "For the employees in certain roles that rely on a dedicated line-of-business app to perform their duties, Windows RT tablets with new line-of-business apps is a good option," he added.

Connectivity: For the best corporate connectivity to corporate networks, choose Windows 8 tablets with Intel Core or Intel Atom processors running Windows 8 Enterprise to leverage DirectAccess.For occasional connectivity, choose Windows 8 tablets with Intel Core or Intel Atom processors that can automatically synchronize files using SkyDrive or SkyDrive Pro.

Visser noted that Windows RT tablets can connect to third-party VPN solutions using the built-in Microsoft VPN client using PPTP, L2TP, and IPSec/IKEv2 protocols. "If only e-mail access is required, all Windows tablet devices can use Exchange ActiveSync," he added.

Always On: For “always on” connectivity, choose Windows 8 tablets with Intel Atom processors or Windows RT tablets that support Connected Standby.

Manageability: For "full" manageability, choose Windows 8 tablets with Intel Core or Intel Atom processors that can be managed using Active Directory, Group Policy, and System Center Configuration Manager, allowing granular control and configuration of the device (including the ability to push out new versions of apps). For "simple" manageability, all types of Windows tablets can be managed via Windows Intune, Visser noted, with security and VPN settings pushed to the devices and line-of-business apps available for users to install as needed via a self-service portal or app.

Governance: Security policies (including those for passwords and encryption) can be configured on all types of Windows tablets via Exchange ActiveSync policies.

I think a "battery life" should have gotten more play, in spite of the fact few of the announced Windows 8 or Windows RT machines -- with a couple exceptions, including the Surface RT -- have much to brag about on that front.

Any quibbles or additional points readers think are worth mentioning for business users trying to navigate the Windows 8/Windows RT maze?

Topics: Windows 8, IT Priorities, Microsoft, Networking, Tablets, PCs, Microsoft Surface


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • There are solutions to poor battery life

    "I think a "battery life" should have gotten more play, in spite of the fact few of the announced Windows 8 or Windows RT machines -- with a couple exceptions, including the Surface RT -- have much to brag about on that front."

    In business, there are any number of solutions you can employ to rectify poor battery life in x86 machines, including buying multiple batteries or auxiliary chargers. Tablets like the Dell Latitude 10 have a removable battery.

    But there's nothing you can do to get features on the iPad (multiple user accounts, the ability to run Win 32 apps, high resolution digitizer for writing on the screen, open file system, integrated ports like video out and USB, mouse support, support for millions of legacy peripherals) that Windows 8 tablets offer

    Sure the iPad is going to run all day... but if it can't do what you want it to do then 100 hours of battery life won't make it worth while.
  • Remember the PEN :-)

    The tablet pictured is likely the Acer Iconia w510 which I had some hands-on time with recently at the new Yorkdale/Toronto Microsoft Store. It's fantastic and highly recommended compared to the Samsung 500T for the device quality and keyboard design. But I ended up liking my Samsung 700T over all others because of one reason -- the stylus is Wacom-based and to interact with Office on a tablet, you really, really need a stylus as that's the way Office has been designed since 2003 days.

    The only other competitor to the 700T is the faster Sony Vaio Duo 11 (it can have up to 12 GB of RAM while the 700T has non-expandable 4GB of slower single-channel DDR3, so it can crawl opening apps at DDR2 speeds), but the Vaio, while full-featured, cannot be detached from the keyboard so it works best on your desk and has N-Trig pen technology rather than Wacom, with noticeably less pressure sensitivity and touch accuracy. I'm eager to try the new tilt-aware Surface Pro's pen, hoping it's as good as a Wacom at a cheaper price than the 700T.

    The Vaio reminds me of another business problem beyond pen, is the lack of drivers! Most tablets (as opposed to laptop designs), including the 700T and the Sony, make it hard to download all the official drivers you'll need. They get close, but Sony for instance, misses a few, and states on their Japanese website that you'll need to use the restore partition or else. This makes it much harder to install your own enterprise copy of Windows 8 instead of the one provided.

    Finally, keyboard quality really matters more than people credit so far. The Samsung 700T was a design device for Microsoft in previous iterations, but it didn't come with a keyboard dock then and it shows now. The keyboard is obviously first-gen unlike the tablet device, and as far as I can tell doesn't even include an additional battery. By comparison, the Iconia W510 pictured has a 9 hour battery in the slim 10" design and an additional 9 hours in the keyboard, for a listed 18 hour battery life in what is essentially a netbook. These 3rd-gen Core processors are insanely power efficient, and I think we'll see insanely high battery numbers out of Apple next year as a consequence.

    Finally, never buy a device (or keep it) until you've held it in your hands and played with it for a few days. Treat it like a normal laptop, close the lid and open it with one hand, or un-latch the tablet with one hand. Feel the materials and look for scratch-magnet surfaces. Watch for a lack of magnets and loose lids when laptops or cases are closed, that really drove me nuts on the surface. Plug and unplug the adapter (also a sore point on the surface). And make sure to pull the tablet dock connector the way it would jostle in a bag or when held -- if you hear a Windows bee-boop as it connects and disconnects, that will drive you nuts the way it sometimes does on my 700T. Look for sleeves and cases, as those can help. And make sure it has a pen, you'll want it later! ;-)
    Louis St-Amour
    • One note -- rereading my post above

      When I said 500T, I meant 500T. There's the Smart PC (500T) and the Smart PC Pro (700T). Don't confuse the two, even though superficially one is blue and the other black. The black 700T is lightyears ahead of the 500T in build quality and screen quality and its only competition so far is the Surface Pro and if Asus ever makes a Windows version of their high-quality Asus Transformer Pad Infinity. (Not that I have one, but I love the YouTube design videos on the keyboard, etc.) The closest competitor now is the Acer Iconia W510, except it's missing the pen.
      Louis St-Amour
    • So what retailers let you walk out with a device for free?

      "Finally, never buy a device (or keep it) until you've held it in your hands and played with it for a few days."

      So unless I can get a free one someplace to take home and use for a few days, I don't see that as an option.

      And isn't that the whole idea of "returns" related to buying something, using it for a few days, then returning it if it doesn't work out - hence "not keeping it".
      William Farrel
    • i was contemplating of Samsung 500T

      Until I notice that Canadian version doesn't have the digitizer pen like US version and the screen quality is worse than the american counterpart. Why they doing that is beyond me.

      Since I'm sure most readers of this post is in US they shouldn't have problem like us Canadians. But based on your requirement the US version is actually what you needed exactly.

      Now I'm looking really hard at Iconia W510 but then it doesn't have the pen... why clover trail and pen can't coexist in Canada? *sigh*
  • They could simply remove WindowsRT from the matrix

    Honestly every answer is either a device using
    a) Intel Core CPU
    b) Intel Atom CPU

    Anytime WindowsRT is mentioned, so it Intel Atom CPU. Sadly WindowsRT running on ARM cpu has nothing to offer business that Windows8 running on Intel Atom cpu.

    Both get to run metro apps, but the Atom cpu will allow the device to run full blown windows programs also.
  • what is a new line-of-business app? something from the 'Metro' store?

    'in certain roles that rely on a dedicated line-of-business app to perform their duties, Windows RT tablets with new line-of-business apps is a good option'
    • Enterprises can set up their own "stores" with "Metro-style" apps

      An enterprise can set up a private app store (using their internal "Public Key Infrastructure" to sign everything) and push out policy (using InTune) that allows their employees to download and install these apps the same way they could from the Microsoft App Store.

      That way, an enterprise that buys into the whole Windows 8 vision can start developing and distributing (internally) internal line of business apps.
  • I don't get it...

    MS gives guidance to "just buy a Win8 tablet" based on the categories we have listed. Seems shallow and does not question the need for a Win8 tablet vs something else.

    I read it three times and still don't see how this is helpful to a decision maker.

    Sounds like MS is saying: "Take two tablets and call me in the morning."
  • "a shortage of Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets available for purchase" ?

    Corrected for you:

    A shortage of customers available to purchase Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets.
    Alan Smithie
    • Shortage?

      As in workers who want to buy but don't make enough, meaning MS will lose customers?


      Customers exist but just don't care for Surface or most things MS makes anymore?

      Or, perhaps, both... most people I know have gone back to college in any attempt to remain "economically viable" and can't spend on these stupid little pink and green toys... or Apple's pwecious lead-colored ones.
  • when is a tablet not a tablet?

    they specify different criteria for connectivity, manageability, governance, etc all of which are essential IT concerns. What they don't mention is input method. Do you need just a touch screen tablet, a stylus, or a keyboard? If you need a keyboard, how often will you use it? Most WIN 8 "tablets"s aren't really tablets. They are hybrid devices, and MS is trying to twist the definition of tablet, so they qualify. If you need a keyboard as your primary input device, you are better off with a laptop than a hybrid tablet. I just don't see much business demand for the Surface and it's Kin. I can be productive on a tablet, with an application that is designed for a tablet. I cannot be productive trying to use MS Office on a chiclet keyboard and a tablet sized screen.
    • primary or secondary - its about the pen.

      I disagree with you. My primary input device is a keyboard, but I NEED pen input as well. I need a screen size of 11.6" or larger, so 700T works perfect. No issue with chiclet size keyboard.
      Your issue seems to be screen size, and keyboard size, that means you need a large laptop; but the reason people want tablets is for the pen (or finger) - regardless of their primary input device. Anyone that looks at tablets are not concerned about keyboard size.
  • LOL.

    Sorry to laugh, but most companies should have managers capable of independent reasoning and be able to think for themselves.

    A company telling others how to choose their product is pretty sickening. Apple and others do the same thing as well...

    And as Surface keyboards are known to fall apart at the seams, nothing is as it seems so I think I will hold off from giving my hard-earned money to Microsoft.
    • Oh noes

      There was a manufacturing problem that they're solving.

      You should go find the company that makes perfect, flawless, 100% never had a malfunction, computers.
      Michael Alan Goff
  • When To Choose Dimdows RT?

    Seems like none of Microsoft's decision points offer any reason to choose Windows "Reduced Technology". So what reason does it have for existing, exactly?
    • Not their market

      RT is for consumers, not for businesses.

      But you already knew that.
      Michael Alan Goff
      • Re: RT is for consumers, not for businesses.

        So if this "matrix" is for businesses, why does it mention RT at all?

        But you already knew that.
        • Don't try so hard to think

          You'll give your self a headache!
          There are plenty of jobs were a Win Rt would working well, just like there are plenty of jobs that iPad's would suit.
          But you already knew that, didn't you?
          • Re: Don't try so hard to think

            Oh, that's right, this is Microsoft, you're not supposed to think, just hand over your money!