Tech leaders vacillate on iPhone 5, with growing anticipation of Windows 8

Tech leaders vacillate on iPhone 5, with growing anticipation of Windows 8

Summary: The iPhone has made serious inroads in the enterprise, but tech executives aren't as excited about the next iPhone as they are about the potential of Windows 8 devices.

TOPICS: Mobility, iPhone, Windows
Yerba Buena Center for iPhone 5 announcement
The Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco is all decked out for the announcement of the next iPhone on Wednesday. Credit: Josh Lowensohn/CNET

When I sit with business professionals in corporate meeting rooms and look at the executives sitting in business class on airplanes, I increasingly notice most of them carry the same device: iPhone. Two years ago, these same people were almost all using a BlackBerry. What device will they be using two years from now? According to members of TechRepublic’s CIO Jury, Windows phones are going to have the inside track at stealing Apple's thunder.

We'll get a big clue to help decipher the future of the smartphone market on Wednesday when Apple unveils its sixth generation iPhone at 10:00AM Pacific in San Francisco (watch CNET's live coverage). Apple appears squarely locked into a two-year product cycle with the iPhone, where it announces a major redesign one year and then an incremental upgrade the next year. This is a redesign year. So, there's a lot riding on the new iPhone, since it will have 24 months of influence in the red hot smartphone market.

Whether all but the most security-conscious companies will dump their BlackBerry phones for iPhones is one of the questions hanging out there. Whether iPhone can continue to keep pace with the growth of Android in the consumer market is another big question. But, percolating under the surface there's another issue that could potentially catch the mobile market by surprise--growing anticipation in the corporate world for Windows 8 phones and tablets.

That's the message we heard loud and clear this week when we did a private poll of the members of TechRepublic's CIO Jury, an international group of about 200 influential technology executives. To be fair, there are still plenty of IT executives excited about the next iPhone, but we were surprised at how much enthusiasm we heard about Windows devices--especially in response to a question about the iPhone where we never specifically asked about Windows 8.

First, let's look at what we got from the tech executives who are eagerly anticipating the next iPhone.

Brian Wells, Associate VP of Health Technology and Academic Computing at Penn Medicine, said, "I will upgrade [to the next iPhone] regardless as in my role at Penn I need to stay out in front to ensure the device and new OS features will be supported by our infrastructure. I have many clinicians and executives that will likely upgrade and we need to stay ahead of them."

Michael Spears, CIO at NCCI Holdings, said, "I am one who is expecting to upgrade to the iPhone 5 pending Wednesday's announcement. I currently have the iPhone 4S. Apple always delivers with a few new key features. I'm not sure I am excited about a larger device, but I'll probably come to appreciate it once I see it... Although each release of the phone keeps getting better, I'm beginning to view my phone as an accessory to the iPad primarily for checking mail and basic functions... I have no interest in switching to Android, I value staying in the ecosystem as much as the device itself."

Afonso Caetano, CIO at J Macêdo, said, "Without doubt, the iPhone 5 will be my next phone, though I will have to wait a bit until it can be released in Apple stores in Brazil. I'm quite interested in the announcement of the new iPhone [on] Wednesday because of the evolution that it will bring and, above all, help me to answer the curiosity of other company executives if [it is] worth it or not to change [from] the current iPhone 4S."

Graham Yellowly, CTO of Equities, Risk and Client Service at LCH Clearnet, said, "I currently have an iPhone 4. The reason I am extremely likely to proceed with the upgrade to iPhone 5 is due to the fact that I like technology and 'gadgets' so would be interested in migrating upwards to a newer model. I find the screen quality and size of the iPhone 4 to be good, a bigger screen won't make much difference to me as if I need a bigger screen I use the iPad and the current iPhone 4 screen is big enough to read web pages clearly and displays photos and videos brilliantly. Faster processing won't make a difference either, though 4G is very tempting if and when we ever get a 4G service in the UK that is compatible with the iPhone 5.... So in summary there is no compelling reason to upgrade, but I will anyway."

If you only read those quotes you wouldn't think Apple has much to worry about. So, let's hear how some of the naysayers responded.

"The release of the iPhone 5 will not have any bearing on my organisation's mobile device decisions," said Scott Kerr, IT director at Scotmid. "The hardware itself is almost irrelevant with the OS, integration and security abilities being more important. To this extent the Nokia [Windows Phone 8] devices are more interesting. Apple will continue to upgrade their products on a regular basis and it is impossible for businesses to keep up with what Apple might be doing."

Adam Gerrard, CTO at LateRooms Group, said, "[The new iPhone is] not likely to be my next personal device. I'm waiting for the Windows 8 phones and the Windows Surface to arrive before I make my next personal technology investment decision. I currently use a BlackBerry for mobile [communications] and a 7" Android 4.0 tablet which uses my BlackBerry as a wireless hotspot for connectivity. I need devices that improve my productivity and integrate into my business life rather than a stylish data reader (which has been my experience of Apple products to date) that looks trendy to be seen with when out of the office. I await the iPhone 5 from a business perspective as the people who will buy it tend to be a good target market segment for high margin sales opportunities and we will want to understand how to most effectively target this specific device."

The Android response came from Kevin Leypoldt, IS Director of Structural Integrity Associates, who said,

For the first time since the launch of the iPhone I can actually see Apple missing the mark here. The 4S hardware last year was a disappointment for many... Android (both hardware and operating system) have come a long way, fueled by constant innovation, over the last year. It's my opinion that Android (as a whole) has become the mark to beat. The hardware has surpassed Apple with larger screens and faster processors. Then the improved OS (Ice Cream Sandwich and now Jelly Bean) now incorporate many of the same OS/software features that Apple set as the standard...

I guess I see it as Apple’s game to lose, and the fact that they seem committed to this annual refresh schedule really leaves them at a disadvantage which may actually take a bite out of the Apple this go around. On the flip side there are a bunch of folks on a listing Blackberry ship that may be waiting for iPhone 5 before they abandon ship. These incremental advancements may be all they need to see before they jump. Personally I am a current 4S user, but I think that I am searching for a reason to abandon ship myself and see how the Android boat performs. We shall see what Wednesday brings.

However, the responses that Apple should be most concerned about are the ones that came from Shawn Beighle, CIO of The International Republican Institute, and Dale Huhtala, executive director of enterprise technology infrastructure services at Service Alberta.

Beighle said,

To be completely honest, from a business standpoint I'm much more excited to see how Windows 8 Mobile rolls out, along with Surface. With all three platforms: PC, tablet and smartphone all running the same kernel, while also having Active Directory tied in and the controls that come with that, this has incredible potential.

As with everything in the tech-world though, seeing is believing.

I currently have an iPhone 4, which I decided not to the upgrade to the 4S, simply because there wasn't enough of a compelling reason to do so. I will upgrade to the iPhone 5 though, since my 4 is really at the end of its lifespan. I'm not overly excited about the upgrade mind you, it's just time to do so.

If Microsoft is successful with Windows Mobile 8 and Surface though, I'll most likely drop the iPhone altogether. That's a big 'if' though.

Huhtala wrote,

We are not waiting for the iPhone 5. In fact, we did a massive transition of over 4,000 phones from BlackBerry devices to iPhone 4S devices over the summer. This aligns with our recent requirements to host iPad devices via a managed Mobile Device Management (MDM) tool that has been implemented for the enterprise.

Overall, we've found that iOS devices are not a good fit into the corporate model – software is very difficult to manage across these devices. A volume deployment solution was recently announced by Apple in Canada (last week) that may help, but as Apple themselves have told us – these devices are consumer devices that were not meant to be deployed in an enterprise environment. That is very apparent.

We are hoping to investigate the options available with a Windows 8 phone/tablet in the upcoming year. The belief is that these will be more corporate-friendly, though initial investigations are showing that we'll likely need still another set of infrastructure to manage these devices as well. They will be a better fit for the corporate environment, particularly around managing files – something iOS definitely does not do well.

In short, we're mildly interested in the new announcements – and expect a flood of requests for the new phones, and possibly the new smaller iPad if that gets announced – but it won't be a direction-changer like the Windows 8 devices may be.

Let's not forget that these comments also show how much Apple has invaded the enterprise in the past couple years. It's a standard part of the conversation now. That said, it still has its limitations -- particularly security and device management -- and since Android has been unable to exploit those weaknesses (and, in many cases, is even worse), that leaves a big opening for Windows 8 phones and tablets.

However, it's far from a done deal that Microsoft is going to swoop in and steal market share. The new Windows products look solid in demos, but they are going to have to be really, really good when they actually land in the hands of real people.

The other thing to keep in mind here is that this is no longer a completely top-down decision where a company decides on the technology vendor, buys a bunch of devices, and then hands them out to certain sets of employees. There's also the bottom-up part of the equation--bring your own device (BYOD).

Even if some companies recommend that employees buy Windows 8 devices and offer better access to more company resources to people who connect with Windows 8 devices, ultimately those devices (and their app and content ecosystem) are going to have to be good enough that individual consumers don't feel like they are giving up anything by buying a Windows device instead of an Android device or iPhone. On Wednesday, we'll see if Apple sets that bar a little higher.

Topics: Mobility, iPhone, Windows

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  • A big if

    I could not help but note the always present 'if' when people talk about Windows 8. So much promise makes everyone at least abut skeptical.

    Let's just wait and see.
    • IF is right

      My prediction: when windows 8 is released, there will be a big hooplah and lots of early adopters. Likely, things will cool down for a while as I seriously doubt microsofts ability to pull out a great "first run" like Apple can. It will be called a "flop" for a while, but after a couple years or so and tweaked generations of w8 devices, it will slowly creep into the market.

      What happens next depends largely on Apple. So long as MS provides an effective ecosystem for business users, it will likely remain at least steady in this market. If Apple releases more business-friendly devices, it could take the lead.

      Either way, Wndows 8 has opened Pandoras box, so to say, in that now everyone will begin to expect smoother interoperability between all their devices, and the lines between laptop, tablet, phone, etc will continue to blur.
      Five years from now, Most laptops will have touch screens, and more tablets and phones will be interoperable with traditional desktop programs and file systems as opposed to the clunky and often unintuitive process one needs to use nowadays simply to be able to transfer and edit office files on an iPad today.

      I was very skeptical of tablets when the iPad was released, as I considered them to be simply a rich man's toy. But as prices have come down and they have become more popular, their use has really increased dramatically. I predict the same could happen with windows 8 devices, but going from boring business/enterprise devices branching out to normal everyday fun devices, much the same as the PC did in the past.

      Regardless of who comes out on top, one thing is for sure: things will change dramatically in the next couple years and Apple will need to fight hard to retain its dominance.
      Ryuko Shirotori
      • Moreover,

        Moreover, the iOS ecosystem will likely continue to dominate the consumer arena. As mentioned in With BYOD Situatons, this will continue to impact what gets used at work. Fact is, a lot of people are psyched that they can use an apple-made system without having to spend over $1000. The sleek interface is the computing version of a luxury car to the economy car that is Windows. Aside from business users, I don't think too many people are happy enough with Windows to really want to use it on their phone. I use ugly windows at work all day long and certainly don't want to be stuck with it when I'm mobile. W8 would have to be radically different to change this perception.
        Ryuko Shirotori
        • Sleek? More like pedestrian...

          After 3 years with 2 iPhones and an iPod touch, I find iOS looks more and more boring. iOS is feeling less like a BMW and more like a Camry. It's time to abandon the desktop metaphor once and for all. Here's hoping that the new Win8 OS's will speed the transition away from the pedestrian icon grid and into something more modern.
  • Neither

    The future belongs to neither Apple nor Microsoft. Old, locked-down, proprietary ways of doing things have had their day. For a taste of the future, look at Linux. See how its Android variant is completely dominating the mobile world, and taking over all the innovation that used to be a hallmark of the PC business.

    The future is about technology that adapts to the needs of customers, not the other way round.
    • Android is almost less linux

      than windows phone 8 is windows 8.
      Sam Wagner
    • Look at Linux....HA!

      ld017 - I've been hearing that for nearly 14 years now.

      Linux Fanboy (1998) - Linux will rule the all software markets everywhere!

      Linux Fanoy (Today) - Any day now....I can feel it. THIS will be the year. I just know it!!
      • Total agreement :)

        Android seems to currently have a simlar position on phones that windows enjoyed on PCs for the last 25 years. However, there is a serious problem with many android devices. They tend to not all run the same version of the OS' often upgrades are reliant on the manufacturer's whims (they often would rather sell a new model with that new OS than support the old model), and access the android app market is not uniform in all devices. Many makes have their own modified, limited app store.

        Aside from all the glam, a major appeal of apple is its uniformity in the iOS ecosystem. If windows 8 can bring that... Then Linux will continue to remain a fringe system. I even see android losing more market share to w8 than apple will.
        Ryuko Shirotori
      • Re: Look at Linux....HA!

        In case you haven’t noticed, Android is activating 1.3 million copies a day. Thatṥ 1.3 million copies of Linux, not counting all the other uses of Linux on everything from supercomputers down to cheap NAS boxes like one you probably already have at home.

        Compare that to only 1 million copies of Windows shipping per day.

        And in case you haven’t noticed, the Windows PC business is declining, while mobile devices are spreading like weeds.
        • Yes, let's look at Android in particular

          In case you haven't noticed, there is not a single carrier anywhere on planet earth, that carries both iPhone and Android, where the iPhone does not outsell EVERY Android device on that carrier, COMBINED. Care to name one?
          The only reason that Android is in the market position that it is in is that the iPhone does not have the carrier penetration. As more carriers get the iPhone, the trajectory implies that Android will lose share, quickly.
          • Re: "not a single carrier anywhere on planet earth"

            Actually, there is not a single place on planet earth where your choice of phone is dictated by your choice of carrier.

            No, sorry, I was wrong. There is precisely one place on planet Earth like that. No other country does it. Coincidentally, it's about the only place on planet Earth where Iphone market share is still holding up.
          • Um, wrong

            One word. China.
            I could go on, like South Korea, every carrier with CDMA, etc., but why bother?
      • Linux is already running the world, but not alone.

        Half the existing servers, all hardware under Android, Amazon Kindle... Is it not enough to consider Linux more seriously ? Linux runs a good chunk of today's IT networked world.
        Moreover, it's flexible, diverse, open, changing, adapting, with thousands of applications, all free, and it's fun !!! Nobody is obliged to like it, but one should admit the reality : smartphones are run by many different operating systems, and we should be happy to have the choice.
  • Windows on the enterprise

    Enterprises struggle to support mix and match hardware and software. The real interest will be if Windows 8 can persuade the corporates to finally migrate off XP. At that point, having a full end to end software stack from server, destop, tablet and mobile becomes a very tempting proposition and the real game changer.
    Gordon Dracup
    • Hold on a minute...

      Don't fret - enterprises are truly migrating off XP and onto Windows 7 after the required due diligence. However, no CIO who wishes to keep his/her job is going to green-light adoption of a brand new OS - not at least until the first service pack is out!
      • It depends...

        Depends on the size of the operation and the needs of employees... if it is an environment where they want/need to be able to give their employees tablets, they are likely to get a Windows 8 server up and running pretty quickly to manage the new environment and deploy Windows 8 tablets. Service pack or not, one thing is already clear from the Release Preview, Windows 8 is the best mobile solution out there for the workforce.
        • Missing the point

          If the only thing being done is setting up a server to run point for Win8 tablets, the entire point of an end to end stack is lost. As such, so is the key advantage of WIndows 8 here. The O.P. is correct. They key will be if MS can convince enterprise to make the switch whole hog. Otherwise, the respondent is correct, and in addition, there is no advantage moving to Windows 8 over any other platform, be it Android or iOS.
  • Win 8 phones and the associated tablet/desktop MS ecosystem will succeed.

    The primary task of any phone is to make phone calls. Win 8 phones can do that. In an enterprise setting, the primary tasks a smartphone must succeed at pertain to security and deployability issues. The Win 8 phone ecosystem will excel in those categories as well.

    However, in the BYOD enterprise markets, the iPhone (thanks to the insurmountable ecosystem app lead Apple enjoys) coupled to superior secondary features (photo and video capability just being a few of them) should maintain Apple's lead over Win 8 phones or Android phone systems.

    As was noted in a few CIO comments, the tight integration between a phone and it's tablet hardware partner is a desirable feature. Apple currently enjoys a tablet superiority which will continue to influence enterprise phone purchasing decisions.

    If the Windows 8 tablets are well received in the marketplace than in two years (yes .. it will take that long), Microsoft will have an ecosystem in place that will counter anything Android or Apple can field. Note: Their is one caveat to that opinion. Microsoft has never been, as a corporation, quick to introduce market products or product innovations in response to changing consumer needs or desires. Both Apple and Android Manufactures have shown a better response time for the introduction of technical innovations than Microsoft has shown in the past.

    That being said, Apple will continue to rule 2013 in both the consumer and enterprise deployments for smartphones and tablets. (Personally, this conjecture was a very easy one to make and it should prove true. However, unforeseen issues (for example, a successful HTC and Samsung 4G LTE patent litigation against Apple) would change the dynamics of that "easy to make" conjecture dramatically.)
    • iPhone doesn't have superior secondary features anymore!

      This is where the Nokia Lumia 920 shines, based on hands-on reviews. Things like the PureView camera with floating lens for optical image stabisation (The Verge verified that it does indeed work), or the touch-screen which can be used whilst wearing any gloves (and even with fingernails), or the new Lens apps which allow 3rd parties to create seamlessly integrated Lens applications, such as the one included with the Nokia Lumia 920 which can automatically remove people from your photos who have accidentally wandered into the picture you are taking.

      I think you'll find that the competition is innovating faster than you realise!
    • "...the insurmountable ecosystem app lead Apple enjoys". Really!?!?

      When it comes to a business environment, most won't even pay attention to the app ecosystem, and what will matter most, is the compatibility of the smartphone's capabilities and smartphone applications, with the applications and hardware in the home office/home server. With most shops still being Windows-based, it's very unlikely that Apple's ecosystem will play as nicely as a Windows based phone, which will be designed to take advantage of whatever internal ecosystem the business already uses, which in most cases, will be Windows machines and Windows applications.