University Deploying Thousands of Windows 8 Tablets Is Smart Tactics, Flawed Strategy

University Deploying Thousands of Windows 8 Tablets Is Smart Tactics, Flawed Strategy

Summary: The CIO of Seton Hall University wants to standardize on Windows 8 tablets and PCs. In the age of thriftiness, BYOD and end user choice, that seems like a losing strategy.

TOPICS: ÜberTech, Apple, CXO, iPad

(August 15, 2012: Seton Hall's CIO counters my argument. Read his letter here.)

Twenty miles from Manhattan, New Jersey's Seton Hall University is offering about 2,500 students, including all incoming freshmen and junior students, the choice of either a Samsung Series 7 tablet or Samsung Series 5 ultrabook running Windows 8 Release Preview version, as well as Nokia Lumia 900 Windows Phones. 

The laptops and tablets will be updated to the official RTM (Release To Manufacturing) of Windows 8 after its release on October 26.

Seton Hall is going all-in on Microsoft. It's also using Office 365 for education for e-mail and other collaboration. While I think the school's move has some short-term merits, I also think it unwisely bucks long-term trends because of a false assumption.

Here are the good things. Apart from Microsoft, all of the relevant vendors are within an hour's drive of Seton Hall. The North American headquarters for Samsung and Nokia as well as AT&T's historic headquarters are all less than 50 miles from Seton Hall's South Orange campus (AT&T is the main systems integrator).

samsung series 7

Samsung's Windows 8 tablet is a great piece of hardware that also happens to cost more than twice as much as an iPad. 

Also, as a "First Wave" beta tester of Windows 8, Seton Hall is receiving "great support" from Microsoft, CIO Stephen Landry told CIO magazine. 

"We had a list of what we thought was wrong. And the patches came. That gave me comfort. And 99 percent of our issues were resolved with the Windows 8 Release Preview. It was ultimately enough of a game-changer for us on tablets."

Seton Hall seems to have done its due dilligence. As you can see from my iPad deployment list, as well as Seton Hall's own SHUmobile information page, it has experimented with Nokia smartphones, Amazon Kindles, iPads and Samsung Galaxy Tab Android tablets. 

From those tests and more, Seton Hall officials say they chose Windows 8 because:

1) Windows 8's strong enterprise features, including its manageability via Active Directory and Group Policy;

2) Problems distributing apps to large groups on the iPad;

3) Apple's lack of enterprise-wide warranties for its iPads, making the process of getting support cumbersome, according to Landry.

Bucking BYOD and Other Trends

But there are also tactical disadvantages of going Windows 8. Based on list prices, deploying 2,500 Samsung Windows 8 tablets (the lower-end one is $1,100) would cost the university about $1.5 million more than buying the same number of $499 iPads ($2.75 million versus $1.25 million). That's a big chunk of change.

Now, Seton Hall may hope that by standardizing on Windows 8, it will be able to save money by avoiding the need to invest in new management software.

If you are a large enterprise that is married to Microsoft technologies such as Active Directory and System Center, as Seton Hall apparently is, that might be possible - but only in the short run.

Think of the overwhelming preference of consumers and enterprises, especially schools and universities, for iPads today. Apple sold 1 million iPads for educational use its most recent quarter. Or the huge popularity of Android smartphones.

While Seton Hall students will love being handed free hardware, my guess is that they will quickly tire of having to lug multiple phones or tablets around in their backpacks. And they won't be happy if their iPhones and Google Nexus tablets are treated as second-class citizens compared to Windows devices, actively blocked or even hunted down as security risks.

Any of those moves smack of the command-and-control management style that is going out of vogue among CIOs in favor of the user-centric one that accomodates BYOD, the Consumerization of IT and other trends. Try to go that route, and a CIO risks creating an enduser revolt that would look something like this:

workers flags



So if restricting devices and apps is not the way to go, what to do? Well, you'll probably want to add multi-platform Mobile Device Management (MDM) and Mobile Enterprise App Platform (MEAP) software in order to manage and control the iPads and Android devices hitting your networks. 

In terms of features and power, most MDM and MEAP software are true peers with one-platform solutions such as System Center or RIM. This includes Android, provided the right MDM software and hardware are deployed together. 

Ultimately, my view is that Windows 8 will be a great platform and will have many fans. But it will only be ONE of several technologies that enterprises will need to manage and support in the modern age. Enforcing a single-platform mobile strategy is both quixotic and wrong.


Topics: ÜberTech, Apple, CXO, iPad

Eric Lai

About Eric Lai

I have tracked technology for more than 15 years, as an award-winning journalist and now as in-house thought leader on the mobile enterprise for SAP. Follow me here at ÜberMobile as well as my even less-filtered musings on Twitter @ericylai

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  • You are doing it wrong ... !!!

    ... if you didn't choose my favorite company, crApple, to spend _your_ money!!!!
  • But the reality is those ipads and android tablets are security risks.

    And the 3rd party management sw is wasteful additional cost. This stuff is why enterprises dont want open byod consumerization of IT. They want byo W8/WP8 device. None of these students will need to carry another smartphone/tablet/ultrabook with them anywhere. As far as the price goes Im guessing they got a competitive deal to the educational price of ipads. Otherwise they would have just handed out the Nokias and waited until the new W8 tablets that will be in the $200-$400 price range come out in a couple months. Im sure they'll be switching to those for next year as the current sammys arent top notch. I'm very interested to see what the students come up with for apps they create and sell themselves.
    Johnny Vegas
    • Only if they are unmanaged.

      Your assumption is that organizations will be able to turn the tide against BYOD and Consumerization. I can't disagree more. Command-and-control IT managers will only continue to thrive in military, banking and possibly healthcare. Everywhere else, CIOs are learning to become partners of the business side so that they can add value, rather than stubbornly cling to their rapidly-diminishing power base.
      • Reality...

        The reality is, whilst some users want BYOD, the majority don't - in my experience, most don't even care enough about tech to be bothered about buying their own kit; a majority of the people I know buy a computer every 8 - 10 years or so and are only switching to smartphones now, because their candybar phones stop working and their carriers push them to more expensive contracts with smartphones and unlimited data.

        Also there are a lot of security risks. I live in Europe and maybe America is a lot more lax on data security, but here the CEO and CIO are personally liable for data breache, which means BYOD is a nightmare. If an employee brings an iPad and wants to use that, how is the CIO going to ensure that the employee doesn't let his kids or wife play with it, when he gets home? How will they enforce remote wipe, if the device gets stolen? (Well, that is easy, it seems, phone Apple and tell them they forgot their (the employee's) iCloud password and remote wipe it from there...

        Then you have the problem that iPads etc. aren't really well suited to business situations. Most LoB applications work on Windows only, which leaves the iPad as an e-mail tool. I also wouldn't want to spend my day typing dozens of pages of text on an iPad.
        • Reality....

          ...something that you seem to be out of touch on. However, first I congratulate you on whatever country you are in for holding the executives personally responsible for anything. The USA needs to do that and for more than just data breaches.

          How exactly are you keeping your employees from letting the kids or wife from playing with whatever bit of tech they are allowed to take home? Seems to me that is more than an iPad issue. And the lame Apple (and Amazon) phone support security fiasco is old news that has been corrected – please try to keep up.

          Perhaps your LoB apps are tied to one vendor – Microsoft. Ours are not tied to any one vendor. By looking ahead years ago, we could see that technologies like the web would mean that we needed to be able to make sure we had hooks into everything so that data could be accessed in ways we could not see – like the iPad.

          Typing dozens of pages on an iPad – do it all the time. Well...creating and editing the pages - typing is really quaint and quite old school. I actually use the speech recognition feature to create most of it. Actually it's rather neat. You should try using some modern tech. You see, I can often start my documents by dictating into my iPhone Pages app while doing my morning walk. Then I pick up my iPad and start editing when I have time wherever I happen to be – often while waiting for a meeting to start - adding charts and references, moving things around, etc. You really should try it some time.
          • @JScott

            The Apple fiasco was still in full swing when I wrote my original comments. ;-)

            When the employee gets a device, they have to sign a declaration that they will protect the data on it and they are told that they cannot allow third parties to use the device. That covers the CEO / CIO. As they can't physically sit there and watch every employee and their devices every minute of the day, there is a little nod to "reasonable care". The devices have passwords or pin codes enforced through policy - not fool-proof, but, again, enough for the law; if the employee divulges the pin code to a third party (including spouse, kids), then they are liable for any "damage" caused.

            As to LoB, in many businesses (I'm talking big business, not small business), the applications are often old and have problems running on Windows XP or Windows 7, let alone a non-Intel based machine.

            A lot of old Intranets were written when IE was THE browser, they would cost millions to bring up to date. As long as they work with IE, there is no real reason to invest millions in a "working" system, just so that it can work with Chrome or Safari.

            It will come, but only when the system is due for an overhaul anyway.

            Our LoB apps are tied to the Windows platform, Linux and Java. They are mainly cross-platform, but as iOS and Android can't run Windows or Linux apps and don't support the Java stack, the LoB apps won't run. Re-writing applications that have been continually developed over the last 20 years in new programming languages is not an easy or cheap task.

            Most companies, faced with several million dollars of investment in re-writing code or paying an additional $1000 per tablet for a Windows based tablet will be more likely to invest in the Windows tablets, rather than throw out 20 years of work and start from scratch, just to molify a "few" iPad users.

            Pages is one thing, but it isn't an LoB system. Try using your iPad to enter consignment information or warehouse movements into heavily customised SAP DynPros...
  • I have to say that you're not convincing me. What is your point?

    Think of the overwhelming preference of consumers and enterprises, especially schools and universities, for iPads today.

    Then you are saying they should standardize on the iPad and iPhone? But you just said they wouldn't be as easy to manage. At the end they have a job to do, and that isn't to cater to somebody's ego (look at me I have such and such device) they are there to teach, and if standardizing on Windows helps them do it the best, then what's your argument?

    They will quickly tire of having to lug multiple phones or tablets around in their backpacks.

    Please explain how giving them an iPad changes that. Wouldn't they just be lugging around an iPad in their backpack as opposed to a Windows8 tablet, while still lugging their Android phone in their pocket?

    It sounds like you're upset they chose Windows over iOS, which doesn't make any sense to an impartial writer.
    NoMore MicrosoftEver
    • Well Put

      I was thinking the same think. Sounds like a made up storyfrom an Apple hack.
    • No, I'm anti-standardization, pro-end user

      I think what you're going to find is a lot of students feeling like they must carry four devices (personal tablet and smartphone, plus their Seton Hall-issued Samsung and Nokia devices). That's a lot. And as nice as these Samsung and Nokia devices are, they will suffer from being organizationally-issued, meaning students won't psychologically take ownership of them as much and therefore are likely not to take as good care of them as the Kindle Fire or iPhone they bought with their own $.

      If Seton Hall had instead invested in a solid MDM platform that can manage iOS, Android, RIM and even Windows 8, it would still have enough $ left over to offer students a nice stipend which they can apply towards a new device of their choice, or for apps/service plans for their existing tablet or smartphone. And empowering users always leaves them more satisfied.
      • You left out...

        ...Linux :-), but you're 100% right. By pursuing an open standards-based and thus inherently cross-platform solution they could accommodate everyone's needs while avoiding vendor lock-in and give themselves future flexibility.
    • The Answer...

      ...not really touted in the article, isn't to standardize on a platform at all. It's to standardize on... well... standards. :-) Open standards. When one does this, then the right device for the task can be chosen and costly vendor lock-in can be avoided. This has nothing to do with iPads (and the Apple ecosystem also is rife with proprietary standards and lock-in "out of the box"). Especially in academia, it's disheartening to see a school I respect marry themselves to closed systems.
  • Microsoft made Seton Hall an offer they couldn't refuse. Grin

    There is nothing wrong with Microsoft products. Nor is there anything wrong with a business concern offering a package that includes financial benefits upfront to their customers. (Specifically, the initial purchase price of available software packages. BTW, that is how MS was able to dominate corporate business software "back in the day". MS simply sold their office suite bundled with their OS to corporations at a substantially lower price than the competition could offer their products to those same corporations. That's just good "cut throat" business tactics.)

    However, being somewhat biased and partial (I have a certain "fondness" for the Maize and Blue of Michigan and it's reputation for excellence - Michael Phelps, Apple Computers, etc.), I can't help but wish Seton Hall well using Microsoft products. They will need that luck since I can't for the life of me picture how Seton Hall students will ever obtain the heights of Academic excellence routinely exhibited by their brothers and sisters attending the Harvard of the West. Very Big Grin.
  • I'm sure it was very Godfather-esque.

    When I covered Microsoft regularly, I was always impressed by the scale of their enterprise customer beta programs, what they called TAP (Technology Adoption Programs) and RDP (Rapid Deployment Programs). Besides helping get feedback from large, influential customers, it helped Redmond turn those customers into public references they could trot out in front of journos and analysts. This goes into more detail:

    In return for talking, there was both a lot of soft help from Microsoft as well often some hard financial benefits for the enterprise customer. As the story from CIO's Shane O'Neill notes, Seton Hall was a Microsoft "First Wave" customer, which I assume had all of the same requirements as TAP/RDP - and benefits.
  • If you are not BIASED can you explain the following ?

    You wrote the following 19 months ago, what made you change your mind concerning being "pro-end user". It seems to only ring true to you, when iPads are not the defacto choice.


    Nothing wrong with liking the iPad, but the bias is a joke.
    • Boo Hiss

      You seem to be hoping that no one will bother to follow the link, so that your insinuation that Eric wrote up a positive article about a university that was standardizing on iPads wouldn't be questioned.

      Well, I did follow the link, I read the article to the end, and either you didn't, or you are seriously mischaracterizing it. The CIO in question was using iPads because it was 2010. The Motorola XOOM (the first serious Android tablet) hadn't even been announced yet. But he was open to Android tablets and said he would support them when they arrived. I guess he didn't mention Windows tablets because no one mentioned them in 2010. They existed, but they sucked.
      Robert Hahn
      • Thanks for backing me up.

        Robert's right - there was no Xoom and no Galaxy Tab alternative to the iPad back then, only kludgy stylus-based Windows convertibles at 2-3x the price, or cheapo Chinese knockoffs.
        • The Galaxy Tab 7 had been introduced three months earlier

          (and yes according to the LIU CIO he noted that they were only available with data contracts at the time.)

          And the Windows 7 HP Slate 500 was out by then too (and no it was not a "kludgy" convertible), plus the iPad was less than a year old at the time. While windows 7 was not ideal for tablets the reviews were not all that bad, and the device was running a full blown OS to boot and compatible with existing IT admin.


          Seriously your reply is totally non-sequitur at best. I am questioning why Eric did not take a similar position then as he does today. You respond by quoting the CIO of LIU NOT Eric ?? (who used phrase like "forward thinking") . Lastly the CIO at the time was embracing a position more similar to what Eric embraces today. Yet Eric at the time took no such position, hence my comments.

          Frankly given the title of this article, it comes of to me as biased. Now in fairness, I did re read the current article and can say that when authors use to much hyberbole such as "actively blocked or hunted down as security risks" combined with the graphic he used, I tend to react in the opposite direction.
  • The author is making up things to suit his agenda

    The author is making up the numbers 1100$ for Windows based tablets. He does not include a valid link or his source mentioning that the tablet would cost 1100$.
    • Here ya go

      Entry-level Samsung Slate is $1,099, higher-end model is $1,349
    • Lazy, eh?

      Yes, the author should have provided a link to base his fact on – good journalism. However, before you fired off your post, could you not have checked the Samsung site for the pricing rather than just assuming he was wrong?

      Now, I seriously doubt that Seton Hall is paying retail for this kit. Even at a steep discount, these things will still cost more than the top-end iPad.